The day after announcing his idea for a program to help boost curb appeal in Seymour neighborhoods, Mayor Matt Nicholson’s office received several calls from residents wanting to apply.
“We had seven or eight phone calls asking for applications already, so I think it’s going to be received really well,” he said. “It’s just a matter of trying to establish the process.”
On Monday, the Seymour City Council took the first step in getting such a program up and running by voting 7-0 to transfer $10,000 into a new Curb Appeal Program Fund.
[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]
That money comes from the city’s unsafe structure fund, an account that currently has $70,000 available and is used to cover the costs and legal fees associated with tearing down derelict properties in the city.
The ordinance to establish the new Curb Appeal Program Fund along with some associated resolutions will be presented again at the March 22 council meeting for a final vote.
Nicholson said the new program is modeled after a similar one in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and provides grant money as an incentive to property owners to enhance the exterior appearance or curb appeal of their homes and properties.
“We essentially went through and adapted theirs to agree with the city of Seymour,” Nicholson said.
Once in place, the program will provide a matching grant of up to $500 for qualifying projects or $750 for neighbors who apply together as a reimbursement after improvements are made. Applicants who receive funding cannot apply again for another 12 months.
Eligible projects could include things like fixing a sidewalk in front of a home, redoing or adding flower beds or flower boxes, replacing or painting a front door or shutters, repairing gutters, exterior painting, pressure washing or replacing siding, landscaping, repairing driveways or replacing mailboxes or house numbers.
To be eligible for the funding, the work must be completed by a licensed business or contractor.
Councilman Seth Davidson said he liked the idea but wondered where funding would come from to continue the program after the $10,000 has run out.
“The goal this year was to establish the program and see how it goes and what we might need to change,” Nicholson said. “It gives us a starting point.”
He said there are several other areas in the city’s budget from which some money could be transferred to support the program.
Councilman Bret Cunningham said he didn’t think the initial $10,000 would last very long.
“I don’t, either, and realistically, if $10,000 blows through really quick and you guys come back and tell me to move another $10,000, I’m perfectly content with that as long as it’s getting used,” Nicholson said.
Cunningham also asked if there were any state or federal grants that could help support the program.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case right now, as most grants available aren’t for improving the residential sector, Nicholson said.
Councilman Chad Hubbard also supported the idea but thought it would make more of an impact if the city targeted neighborhoods that need “spruced up.”
He was concerned most of the improvements would be made in just one district.
Nicholson said the grants would be available to households making less than $100,000 a year to exclude residents who could afford to have the work done without a grant.
Councilman Drew Storey said the objectives of the program “look and feel really nice,” but he wants to see a way to measure the impact of the funding.
“I really like before and after pictures because a picture is worth a thousand words,” he said.
Storey said he thinks the program is going to work.
“I don’t think $500 solves everyone’s problems,” he said. “But it’s a really good kick-start to get them going.”