Federal complaint filed to save Mount Dora 'Starry Night' mural

Attorney asks that city stop fining homeowners

MOUNT DORA, Fla. – A federal complaint has been filed in an attempt to save a mural of Vincent van Gogh's "The Starry Night" that is painted on the outside of a home in Mount Dora.

The controversy surrounding the custom paint job has been ongoing since August, when homeowners Nancy Nemhauser and Lubomir Jastrzebski received a notice that the artwork on their perimeter fence was a code violation.

[READ: Federal complaint filed against city of Mount Dora]

The notice classified the 140-foot-long mural, which took artist Richard Barrenechea six hours to paint, as graffiti. After the graffiti claim didn't hold, city officials said the mural violated Mount Dora's sign ordinance.

The mural has since grown to nearly cover the entirety of the two-story home on West Sixth Avenue, and the fines associated with the artwork have grown too.

The couple has been fined $100 a day for the Postimpressionist mural, which adds up to more than $10,000 since the quarrel began.

On Tuesday, attorneys representing the homeowners filed a federal complaint against the city of Mount Dora, alleging that forcing the couple to paint over the picture would be a violation of their First Amendment and 14th Amendment rights.

The complaint also alleges that the city's sign code is too vague and therefore can be enforced discriminately. 

In an emergency motion, attorneys asked that a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction be granted so the couple will no longer be fined until a federal judge can step in and determine whether city officials acted in line with the U.S. Constitution.

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