“We are absolutely delighted and ecstatic,” Nemhauser told the AP. “I’m unhappy that we had to go through all of this, but the ending is a happy ending.”
Florida couple Nancy Menhauser and Lubomir Jastrzebski’s home in Mount Dora is painted to look like Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
But it’s not because they are artsy or eccentric.
They painted their house this way so that their autistic son could find his way home.
“We had not originally intended to paint the house like this,” Nemhauser told TODAY.
They started to paint their house when it started looking worn out and needed a paint job.
They even asked for permission from the city to paint it and got that permission.
Next the family hired an artist whose work was being shown in South America. They had the artist paint an image of Van Gogh since their son was a fan of his.
They figured that it would help him find his way back if he ever wandered off.
“God forbid he were to be in a situation where he did not have the ability to articulate his address, we’re hoping that he would have the ability to at least say that he belongs at the Van Gogh house,” Nemhauser said.
Thankfully their son hasn’t wandered off, but their son does love his Van Gogh house.
“There’s some magical connection I think between Van Gogh and autistic kids because Van Gogh was possibly also autistic,” Jastrzebski said.
But not everyone liked their home.
They ended up getting a citation from the city who considered the paint on their home to be graffiti and told them that the wall must match the house.
So, that’s when they painted the entire house with a Starry Night theme so everything would match.
They were subsequently fined $10,600 and then filed a lawsuit against the city saying their right to freedom of expression was being violated.
The city told TODAY they were trying to “preserve the residential character of our neighborhoods.”
They also said it could distract drivers.
According to the city, the house “may present a distraction to safe vehicle operation along the street which fronts the home.”
They also said it violated a law about business signage displays. But not everyone had a problem with the house.
A petition was circulated to support the house staying as it was.
“I’m willing to fight to the bitter end and I understand we could lose the house,” Jastrzebski said.
Thankfully, the end wasn’t bitter but the battle did last for a year.
The town ended up dropping their complaint and rescinded their hefty fine.
They also agreed to pay the couple’s legal fees which cost $15,000. In addition, the mayor issued an apology.
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The family is also protected from future ordinances that might come up in regards to their house’s paint job.
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