Donald Trump is expected to settle into civilian life at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida after he leaves the White House later this week – and not everyone is happy.
Mr Trump, who officially changed his primary residence from New York to Florida in 2019, has long been a source of controversy among some locals in the exclusive Palm Beach community.
For years there have been complaints about blocked roads and traffic jams as heavy security descended on the island during his frequent presidential visits. Prior to his presidency, Mr Trump feuded with local officials after breaching zoning rules by erecting a giant flag pole on the property.
More recently, some locals have raised concerns about frequent parties at Mar-a-Lago, with mask-less guests flouting social distancing recommendations even as the tiny town – which has a year-round population of around 9000 – does its best to stay on top of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We shouldn’t be caged in our homes,” Amber Gitter, a local estate agent who attended an extravagant New Year’s Eve party at the resort, told The Guardian. “(No government should) tell you that you have to stay in and can’t work.”
With the soon-to-be former President and wife Melania expected to become a permanent fixture of the community, concerned residents have now taken an extraordinary step – they are seeking to prevent Mr Trump from making Mar-a-Lago his full-time home.
Last month, a group of angry neighbours sent a demand letter to the town of Palm Beach requesting that it notify Mr Trump he cannot use Mar-a-Lago as his residence, citing an agreement dating back to the time it was converted into a private club stipulating that members are barred from spending more than 21 days per year in its guest suites.
“Basically he’s playing a dead hand. He’s not going to intimidate or bluff people, because we’re going to be there.”
Mr Trump purchased the 126-room, 5800sq m mansion in 1985.
As the costs of maintaining the property blew into millions of dollars a year, he cut a deal with the town of Palm Beach in 1993 to convert the property by making a series of promises – including limits on stays to ensure it remained a private club, rather than a residential hotel.
According to The Washington Post, before the deal was signed, a Trump lawyer assured the town council at a public meeting that his client would not live at the resort.
Under the agreement, each year Mar-a-Lago is required to report whether at least half of its members live or work in Palm Beach, that the club has fewer than 500 members, and that no one is using the guest suites more than 21 days a year.
During his presidency Mr Trump has spent at least 130 days there, according to a tally by The Washington Post, although to date there appear to have been no objections raised by the town.
Palm Beach town manager Kirk Blouin told The Guardian this week the council would review the matter during next month’s meeting.
Other members of Mr Trump’s family are also expected to face social ostracism in their new southern home, despite fleeing New York – where the President is deeply unpopular – to the more conservative, Republican-run state.
Last week, Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner were reportedly told they “need not apply” to the exclusive country club near their new $41 million plot of land on the exclusive Florida island nicknamed “The Billionaire’s Bunker”.
Indian Creek has just 26 residences, but living there doesn’t automatically grant membership to the island’s club.
“You have to be nominated and make a formal application, but it only takes one member to object against any new member, and many members are objecting, particularly after the events at the Capitol on January 6,” one local told the New York Post.
“Jared and Ivanka can lunch with their fellow ‘patriots’ at Mar-a-Lago,” they added, referring to a since-deleted tweet from Ivanka which condemned the illegal behaviour but was criticised for referring to “American Patriots”.
“The Indian Creek Country Club members are very picky and the word is that Ivanka need not apply.”
Separately, Donald Trump Jr. and his partner Kimberly Guilfoyle are also reportedly looking at homes in Jupiter, Florida, where his ex-wife Vanessa lives with their five children.