Florida Homeowners Battling City Over House Painted Like Van Gogh's 'Starry Night'

Florida city says homeowners can’t have house painted like Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’

Nancy Nemhauser and her husband Lubomir Jastrzebski had painted a wall that rings their property. They had permission to paint it from city officials. They had the plan to paint it as a mural for their son, who has autism. They hoped that if he was lost, it would be a beacon, or at least a landmark, to help him find his way home, the “Today” show reported

But after the mural was done, the family got a ticket from the city saying that the paint was graffiti and that it must match the house. The city then said that the paint scheme was a sign, and a code violation in a residential area, WFTV reported.

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So instead of covering up the painting, they took the Van Gogh tribute a step further and painted the entire house so the wall and home would match as they were told to do, “Today” reported.

But the city didn’t agree with what they did and has fined them more than $10,000 for the paint scheme. A local magistrate ruled in February that the city could fine the couple, WFTV reported. The fines were stopped at the end of February after a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order against Mount Dora, WFTV reported.

But the family is now turning the tables on the city, suing the local government in federal court, saying their right to freedom of expression is being violated, “Today” reported.

"There's art on other homes, other buildings in the city, in the residential district as well, so why are we being chastised for ours when we did what we were told we had to do to keep the wall that our son loves," Nemhauser told WFTV.

The city did not respond to “Today’s” request for comment on the suit, but said in February that leaders are trying to “preserve the residential character of our neighborhoods.” They added that the house could be a distraction to drivers.

Both sides are trying to settle, but whether the painting will have to be covered has not been determined. But the family says they’re ready to stand up for their rights.

Reaction to the mural is split -- some love it, others don’t.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Ilka Zuijderland-Varnes told “Today.” “I think it’s art, and we’re an artsy town, and it should stay.”

But another resident, Tammy Swan Bacon, said she doesn’t like it, but says the city should not make the family take it down, “Today” reported.

City officials said in February that the city is also considering putting a lien on the property to "motivate" the homeowners to remove the mural, WFTV.com.

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