Magistrate rules Van Gogh house mural must go

A magistrate in Mount Dora says a Van Gogh mural painted on the side of a house must go.

“Paint over it in a solid color,” said Magistrate David Tegeler. “No graphics, no design, nothing that is going to end up attracting the attention of the public.”

Tegeler ruled that local artist Richard Barrenechea's painting was an illegal advertisement for Barrenechea's work and was a “non-conforming” sign.

He ordered the property owner, Nancy Nemhauser, to get rid of it.

Barrenechea said it's a crying shame.

“Obviously, they want to do what they want to do,” he said.

James Homich represents Nemhauser, who commissioned the homage to Van Gogh's "Starry Night" on her house and fence.

He said the ruling is a flawed interpretation of the city's laws.

“They could come in and, let's say you painted your house a funky color, and the city didn't like the color,” Homich said, “they'd say you're using it to attract attention to yourself - so now it's a sign, so we're going to regulate aesthetics - which there's nothing in the code that regulates aesthetics in any manner.”

Mount Dora Mayor Nick Girone said they could change the city code to allow the painting to stay, but that move needs to come from the city council.

“I think if we need to have something like that addressed, we will address it and make any corrections that we have to do,” Girone said.

The magistrate gave Nemhauser 30 days to paint over the mural.

The Nemhauser’s lawyer says he expects they'll appeal the ruling to a circuit court.