A pair of Florida homeowners are incurring fines of $100 per day after refusing to cover up their house’s paint job — a mural of Van Gogh‘s “Starry Night.”
Nancy Nemhauser and Ludomir Jastrzebski said they were initially given a fine of $250 a day, but it was reduced in December to $100 a day.
The fines were initially capped at 31 days, but Magistrate David Tegeler ruled Thursday that the city of Mount Dora can continue imposing the daily fines until the mural, which the officials allege violates city code, is removed.
Officials said the painting is considered a sign by the city and is earning business for the artist who painted the mural while causing a distraction for drivers.
“Looking at the same thing at the same time, it makes for an unsafe situation — another reason compliance needs to be achieved,” WOFL-TV quoted Sherry Sutphen, a lawyer representing the city, as saying during Thursday’s hearing.
Nemhauser said the mural was painted for their son, an adult with autism who the couple hopes to move to 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 told WFTV.
The couple said the fines have accumulated to more than $8,000.
Jastrzebski said he and Nemhauser feel their constitutional rights are being violated.
“Let me tell you, the first amendment is precious. And I will fight for this until the end,” Jastrzebski said.
Jeremy Talcott, the couple’s attorney, said they don’t plan to pay any fines until they have exhausted their options in court.
“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. Jastrozebski and to the mural on their wall and house,” Talcott said.