President Donald Trump, who once sued Palm Beach County over noisy jets flying over Mar-a-Lago, got final approval on Thursday to build a helipad at the winter White House despite a neighbor’s complaint that the president’s helicopters would far exceed the town’s noise limits.
“Nobody is questioning the right of the president to come to a place he loves and calls the winter White House,” said Jesse Diner, attorney for Nancy deMoss, whose home is a few hundred feet from the proposed helipad. “These are big helicopters like flying tanks and they make a lot of noise when taking off.”
Diner, speaking before the town’s Landmarks Preservation Commission on Thursday, did not ask the commission to deny the helipad request. Instead, he asked the town to consider an alternative site.
According to Diner, Marine One and other helicopters used to transport the president are as long as 78 feet. The rotors have a 62-foot diameter. And it will not be just one helicopter flying over Trump’s backyard, Diner said.
“Because of security, the presidential helicopter does not come in by itself,” Diner said. “They come in with one to four decoys and then at the last minute they pull out.”
The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Town Council unanimously approved the helipad at a meeting on Jan. 10. Under the terms of the approval, the helipad can be used only “for business relating solely to the office of the presidency” and must be removed after Trump leaves office.
The helipad would allow Trump to ride in Marine One from Palm Beach International Airport, where Air Force One lands, to Mar-a-Lago. The hope is that transporting the president via helicopter will alleviate traffic jams caused when the president’s motorcade travels along Southern Boulevard to and from Mar-a-Lago.
However, the helipad would not change Secret Service-mandated road closures around Mar-a-Lago. And when Marine One is in the air, the Southern Boulevard Bridge would still be shut down.
The Town Council has been sensitive to noise concerns in the past.
In 2006, the town attempted to regulate leaf blowers with a sound-decibel limit. The limit is set at 65 decibels measured from 50 feet away. On Tuesday, the Town Council made its first vote on a ban on leaf blowers on properties under an acre. The council must review and vote on the final draft twice before a ban is enacted.
According to Diner, the presidential helicopters “are well in excess of 100 decibels” — comparable to a jackhammer or motorcycle.
Air traffic over Mar-a-Lago has maddened Trump over the years and prompted him to file two lawsuits against the airport. The first lawsuit, in 1995, was settled when the county agreed to a 75-year contract leasing Trump airport land on Summit Boulevard, where he built Trump International Golf Club.
In 2015, Trump sought $100 million for damages he said the rumbling of jets were causing to the exclusive club. Mar-a-Lago was built in the 1920s as a home for cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post.
After Trump’s election in November, he dropped the lawsuit. Air traffic over the estate is now prohibited while Trump is at Mar-a-Lago.
The town’s Landmark Preservation Commission was the last hurdle for the helipad. After town attorney John Randolph reminded the commission that its mission is to protect historic properties and not noise abatement, the commission voted unanimously for the helipad.
Before casting her vote, Commissioner Page Lee Hufty asked those speaking to stop referring to Trump as Mr. Trump and instead call him Mr. President.
She said she, too, is impacted by the president’s visits. Secret Service has stopped her when she was paddleboarding. Still, she said she is honored to have the president in town and made cookies for Secret Service agents last weekend.
As for Nancy deMoss, “perhaps she needs an attitude adjustment,” Hufty said.