Sunday, July 31, 2022

Let's Just Bury This Now

I had assumed this article was behind a paywall. It's not. So let's get the big stuff out of the way first.

a) tax dodge?

Could this whole thing have been a scheme to reduce the Trump Organization’s real estate taxes? After all, nonprofit cemeteries pay no taxes on their land.

That’s possible, experts said.

But, in this case, the savings would hardly be worth the trouble. That’s because Trump had already found a way to lower his taxes on that wooded, largely unused parcel. He had persuaded the township to declare it a farm, because some trees on the site are turned into mulch. Because of pro-farmer tax policies, Trump’s company pays just $16.31 per year in taxes on the parcel, which he bought for $461,000.

b) size?  The whole golf course?  

So Trump whittled it down to just 10 graves, enough for himself and his family members.

Which family members, exactly?

“Only the good Trumps,” Russo said, according to a video of the town land-use board. He did not elaborate.

The town approved.

The state approved, granting a cemetery license in late 2014. 


Then, with approval for the small cemetery in hand, Trump came back with a new plan, for a bigger cemetery. This time, the plan was for 284 graves. The cemetery would be run by a nonprofit organization, and Trump’s golf course would handle maintenance, grass-cutting and grave-digging.


The land use board approved unanimously, after some inconclusive quizzing (Strakhov had to be absent and didn’t vote).

Now, the Trump Organization still needs to apply for state approval for this larger, public cemetery.

Sorry, Tiffany.  You had the wrong mother.

c) Another money-making venture?

For one thing, it would be a very poor way to make money.

The cemetery business is bad in New Jersey, because the land is expensive, plots sell for cheap and cremation is stealing their customers.

You need volume to succeed. And the volume at Trump’s cemetery would be very low.

Trump’s cemetery — with people selected by a kind of membership committee — would handle just one to two burials per year, officials said. Cemetery plots in New Jersey cost, at most, a few thousand dollars each. The money, such as it was, would go to the nonprofit company. 

d) "This plan, on the surface, made little sense. "

Best guess:  a vanity project.  Trump wanted, in 2007, to build a mausoleum, for himself.

The plan was big: 19 feet high. Stone. Obelisks. Set smack in the middle of the golf course. In Bedminster — a wealthy horse-country town 43 miles west of New York City — officials had some concerns about hosting a reality TV star’s tomb. The huge structure would seem garish, out of place. And there were ongoing worries that the spot might become an “attractive nuisance,” tempting curiosity-seekers to trespass on club grounds.

That was not approved; so he offered to make it versatile. 

“We’re planning a mausoleum/chapel,” Trump said, according to a news report from the time.

That didn’t do it.

“Give me a break. Give me a break,” Holtaway, the town official, remembered thinking. “Why would anyone ever get married in a building with no windows?”

Then he decided on a cemetery of 1000 graves:

The idea, apparently, was that Trump’s golf-club members would buy the other plots, seizing the chance at eternal membership.

“It’s one thing to be buried in a typical cemetery,” said Ed Russo, a consultant who represented Trump here. “But it’s another if you’re buried alongside the fifth fairway of Trump National.” 

The vanity project continueth, IOW.

And to close the circle, that proposal for 1000 gravesites was reduced to 10, then bumped up to the 284 additional that was approved as of 2017.  But did Trump ask for state approval as well?  

So there we are.  Personally I think it a bit creepy to play golf next to a cemetery, especially if your ball goes foul and lands on a grave.

Ivana’s grave has been described as a pauper's grave, so maybe Trump gave up on the additional 284.  I don't see how it was ever going to promote Deadminster as a golf course destination, but there you are.  

This was all five years ago, but the questions linger.  Will Trump opt for Arlington? It's hard to imagine he won't.  Will he prefer a family space?  With which family?  Will he go for Florida, in the end, buried alongside Melania and their son?  Who knows?

Who cares?

No comments:

Post a Comment