Houses come in all shapes and sizes, and now in a variety of colours. It is not uncommon to see houses painted in green, red or even multiple colours at once. However, one Flordia family took the next step when they painted their house with a mural of the famous Van Gough painting 'A Starry Night'.
Lubomir Jastrzebski and Nancy Nemhauser had painted their entire exterior and compound wall after the famous painting, but it led to a legal battle with the Mount Dora city council, who claimed it was a violation of city code.
The couple had commissioned the mural to cover their house for their autistic son, whose favourite work of art is the Starry Night. "In the event he got lost, he would be able to at least mention the Van Gogh house and people would be able to help and hopefully bring him home," Nemhauser told Reuters by phone on Wednesday.
However, the mural landed them in trouble when the city council sent them a notice in July 2017 saying it was illegal. The council argued that apart from not being in line with signage rules, the house, which is now a major tourist attraction was improper and risked distracting drivers.
The council threatened the couple with fines of up to $10,000 if they did not paint over the mural, which led to a lawsuit in February. The couple sued the city for violating their constitutional right to free expression.
The case was settled on Tuesday, with the council agreeing to settle the case and revise the sign codes. As part of the ruling, the couple will receive $15,000 from the city, about 30 miles northwest of Orlando. Mount Dora will also 'grandfather' their home, granting it an exemption from further ordinances.
"Obviously we're very pleased with the settlement, it accomplished everything we set out to do," said Jeremy Talcott of Pacific Legal Foundation, who represented them pro-bono. Mount Dora Mayor Nick Girone apologized to the couple and said the city was pleased to have the matter resolved, at a joint press conference on Wednesday.