Florida Couple Who Painted Their House as a Beacon for Son with Autism Wins Battle with City
A Florida couple has won a year-long battle with their town over their house’s eye-catching paint job, which they say acts as a beacon for their adult son, who has autism, to help him find his way home.
Following a legal ruling this week, Mount Dora residents Nancy Nemhauser and Lubomir Jastrzebski, owners of what’s become known as “the Starry Night house,” after the Vincent Van Gogh painting it evokes, will be able to keep their massive mural intact.
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The town has dropped their complaint stating the paint job violated a city code, rescinded $10,000 in fines it had issued, and agreed to pay the couple’s legal fees, which were $15,000 in total, according to Reuters. The mayor of Mount Dora also issued an apology to the family.
Nemhauser and Jastezebski first put paint to concrete to give a grungy border wall around their home an artsy upgrade inspired by the Dutch painter’s famous work, a favorite of their son. When the city slapped them with an order that said the wall had to match the house, they decided to commit to the theme: Rather than painting the wall back to a solid color, they commissioned artist Richard Barrenechea to expand the starry scene across the entire exterior of their two-story home.
The couple told Reuters they first had the idea to make their house stand out visually to help their son get home, should he need assistance from a stranger. “He would be able to at least mention the Van Gogh house and people would be able to help and hopefully bring him home,” Nemhauser explained to the outlet.
The city claimed the house was a danger to residents because it distracted drivers and that it violated a law about business signage displays, according to NPR. Not only have the complaints been dropped, the family is now protected from future ordinances that may raise issues around their unique home.
“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.”