From fears of losing customers, to laying off employees, or even closing shop, business owners based at the Lantana Airport laid out their concerns during a meeting with U.S. Representative Lois Frankel Monday.
The U.S. Secret Service and Federal Aviation Administration place restrictions on the Lantana Airport when President Donald Trump visits his Palm Beach estate and club, Mar-a-Lago.
The restrictions forbid any airplane from taking off, force airplanes to land at a “gateway airport” for an inspection before landing at Lantana, and do not allow flight training within 30 miles of Mar-a-Lago.
“We want the president to be safe, the president is welcome when he comes in, but obviously these repeated visits are having a serious economic impact,” Frankel said after the meeting.
President Trump has visited Palm Beach the past two weekends. At Monday's meeting several aviation leaders said they’ve heard unofficial reports that Trump plans on returning this weekend for the long President’s Day holiday.
— Charlie Keegan (@CKeeganWPTV) February 13, 2017
Business owners said the short notice of the president’s travel plans give them little time to prepare. His visits over the weekend hamper business like banner flying, that do most of their business over the weekend.
One banner company said it’s lost $30,000 in contracts over the past three weeks and does 97 percent of its business on the weekends.
The owner of Palm Beach Aircraft Services told Frankel his company rented a hangar at North Palm Beach County General Aviation Airport and moved some business away from Lantana just so it could continue normal operations
“Being here 27 years, it’s tough to just pick up and leave which we don’t want to do,” said David Johnson.
Representative Frankel said she met with the Secret Service before President Trump visited Palm Beach. Now, she plans to meet with the agency again after hearing problems and solutions from the business owners and pilots who deal with the tight flight restrictions.
Frankel said she also plans to write letters to the White House and Florida Governor Rick Scott. She said she attended the Red Cross Ball fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago while President Trump was there two weeks ago.
The Democrat, who represents West Palm Beach, admitted she was able to speak briefly with the president, but could not address these types of issues in such an informal setting.
Pilots suggested many compromises they feel would guarantee the president’s safety in Palm Beach, while still allowing them to use the airport. They include limiting the number of runways in use at Lantana, bringing in a temporary control tower and bringing in TSA agents to screen pilots and passengers.
Frankel brought up the possibility of the government paying tenants some sort of rent relief money to make it easier for them to stay in business through President Trump's visits. She said it would be on the county to set aside money for that.
Commissioner David Kerner, who is a pilot, said the county isn't prepared to offer rent relief. He added that is a temporary fix, he'd rather see a long-term solution that eases restrictions at Lantana Airport.