• Mount Dora mayor apologizes after settlement in favor of 'Starry Night' mural

    By: Kelly Healey , Jason Kelly

    Updated:

    MOUNT DORA, Fla. - Mount Dora Mayor Nick Girone publicly apologized Wednesday to a couple after a nearly yearlong legal battle over a mural. 

    Nancy Nemhauser and Lubomir Jastrzebski painted their house in the likeness of Vincent van Gogh's "The Starry Night."

    The city decided the Van Gogh-inspired paint job violated code, and fined the owners more than $10,000 and put a lien on the house.         

    The homeowners took their case to federal court.

    The couple said they have an autistic son who loves van Gogh and that inspired them to paint the mural. 

    Photos: Mount Dora mural fight

    Nemhauser and Jastrzebski were represented free of charge by the Pacific Legal Foundation.

    "It will be a tremendous relief.  I already feel better," Nemhauser said.  "We've not had a good experience with this. It's been quite a surprise."

    City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to accept a settlement to end the battle over the home.

    "I would like to start by extending my sincere apology to Nancy and Lubek for how this matter has turned into an unfortunate dispute," Girone said. "The city will undertake a prompt and comprehensive review of our present codes in light of the court findings."

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    Jastrzebski said he is glad his nightmare is over.

    "There's a saying: You cannot fight City Hall. Apparently, you can," he said. "I believe as an American citizen, who was naturalized a long time ago, the most important things are constitutional rights."

    Although the city will revise its codes, the mural is grandfathered in by the settlement.

    "We do feel as though this was selective enforcement," Nemhauser said.

    Jastrzebski and Nemhauser said they will properly maintain the mural to prevent fading or peeling.

    "This is a huge win for Nancy and Lubomir," said Jeremy Talcott, a Pacific Legal Foundation attorney. "The agreement is a total victory for their liberties and those of everyone in Mount Dora. The family will get to complete the mural, and the city will revise its unconstitutional sign code."

    As part of the settlement, the city will repay $15,000 to the attorneys and remove the lien on the home.

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