Fines accruing against homeowners with ‘Starry Night' mural in Mount Dora

MOUNT DORA, Fla. — Magistrate David Tegeler has ruled the city of Mount Dora can continue to issue fines against homeowners in their fight to keep a mural.

A spokesperson for the city said a replica of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" violates city code, and the homeowners were slapped with fines.

The city said the mural was first classified as graffiti, but later said it's considered a sign, which is a code violation in a residential area. The city argues a sign violation serves as an advertisement for the artist despite the artist's name included on the mural.

"It's been absolutely horrendous," said homeowner Nancy Nemhauser.

Nemhauser said they added the mural for their adult autistic son, who they hope can one day live in the home with his caretakers.

"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 said.

The fines were reduced in December from $250 a day to $100 – totaling $3,100.

County Circuit Judge William G. Law ruled last month that he couldn't stop the city from imposing fines, but granted a stay in any enforcement, so the fines will continue to add up.

The attorney for the homeowners told Channel 9’s Angela Jacobs his clients will continue to fight for what they see as a violation of their rights.

“This was only as to an imposition of fines, and we still have the appeal going forward as to the underlying violation itself, and that's the far more important issue going forward as to whether or not this ordinance can lawfully and constitutionally be applied to Mrs. Nemhauser and Mr. Lubek Jastrzebski and to the mural on their wall and house,” said attorney Jeremy Talcott.

City officials said Thursday that the city is also considering putting a lien on the property to "motivate" the homeowners to remove the mural.

Channel 9's Angela Jacobs is following this story. Follow her on Twitter and Eyewitness News at 4 p.m. for updates.