Palm Beach County has drafted a resolution calling on the federal government to exempt the Lantana airport from some temporary flight restrictions imposed during President Donald Trump’s visits to his Mar-a-Lago mansion on Palm Beach.
The resolution, up for discussion when commissioners meet on Tuesday, directs County Administrator Verdenia Baker or her designee to work with the county’s congressional delegation, the U.S. Secret Service, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to find a way to allow the Lantana airport to have some flight service when the president is in town.
The airport is managed by the county, but private aviation businesses operating there reported a loss of $30,000 in revenue during a single weekend earlier this year when the president traveled to the county.
A $1 trillion spending bill passed by Congress and signed by Trump in May includes $61 million to reimburse local governments that provide additional security during presidential trips. The president has residences in Palm Beach County, New York City and Bedminster, N.J., all of which are expected to seek some of those reimbursement funds.
Palm Beach County officials estimate that local taxpayers have shelled out $4 million to pay for additional security and roadway management during Trump’s visits.
But given the intense blanket of security that envelops every presidential foray, the county’s push to help the Lantana airport is an especially tall order.
Commissioner Dave Kerner, whose district includes the airport, said the hope is that federal officials will allow flights to travel to and from the airport from the south during presidential visits.
State Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lake Worth, and U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, have backed the call for a loosening of the temporary flight restrictions imposed on local airports during Trump’s trips.
“Without the consideration of a slightly loosened TFR, our community will continue to feel these adverse effects on our local economy,” Berman wrote to Gov. Rick Scott in February as she sought his support. “The potential loss of quality jobs to our area is too great to ignore.”
Temporary flight restrictions imposed during Trump’s trips to Palm Beach County have limited impact at Palm Beach International Airport, but the Lantana airport, which has no commercial service and no air traffic control system, is virtually shut down.
Kerner said he’d like to see federal officials ease the flight restrictions on the Lantana airport, which he says could employ PBIA’s air traffic controllers when the president is in town.
Kerner offered that deal during a meeting with Secret Service officials in February.
“They said no,” the commissioner said.
A couple factors likely play into that stance, Kerner said.
The first is that Palm Beach County, unlike, say, Camp David, had not been a place frequently visited by presidents, meaning the county and its safety challenges are still new to security officials.
“They are hyper protective,” Kerner said. “When they come to a new area, they are much less open to adjustment.”
Another barrier to help for the Lantana airport is that private business owners are facing the brunt of the revenue losses. Local governments have had limited success getting reimbursed, Kerner said, but that’s about it.
“There’s not really a precedent for businesses that have been harmed by presidential visits,” he said.