In an effort to encourage community pride and enhance property fronting U.S. Business in Madison Heights, Amherst County’s Route 29 Business Beautification Committee is launching a new mini-grant program for local businesses.

The program’s purpose is to assist businesses along the corridor from the James River to Cedar Gate Road in making improvements to the overall appearance of their properties. The committee, a subcommittee of the Amherst County Planning Commission that meets regularly to consider strategies and enhancement steps for the corridor, has about $7,000 for the program and believes it can assist in up to seven projects, according to Jeremy Bryant, Amherst County’s director of community development.

Under the program, a business can submit an application to the committee for review. If approved, up to $1,000 per property could be allocated and the business would have to match it, according to Bryant.

Examples of qualifying improvements are sign replacement and restoration, landscaping, removal of blight, façade improvement, tree planting and fresh paint on a building. Bryant said he’s talked to at least two companies that are willing to take down their dilapidated signs through the program, which would make a positive visual difference along the corridor, and they’re excited about it.

Bryant addressed the commission on the program during its Nov. 21 meeting.

“It’s an initiative that will help beautify this business corridor and hopefully bring in more business and more residents,” Chairwoman Beverly Jones said.

If an applicant’s grant is approved, it would spend money on the improvement and bring back receipts and proof of work before receiving the money, Bryant said.

“We’re not giving them the money up front,” Bryant said.

Calvin Kennon, chairman of the Amherst County Economic Development Authority, said businesses can take notice through the program the county is putting skin in the game to make Madison Heights more attractive.

“This helps businesses understand they’ve got a partner in Amherst County,” Kennon said.

The committee can only spend on the program as money is available and Bryant is optimistic it can lead to more projects down the road.

“We believe if its successful and the [Amherst County Board of Supervisors] sees it as successful that it should increase our chances for future funding,” Bryant said.

In other news:

The commission recommended approval of a rezoning request and special exception request to allow Billy Blevins, who owns Jet Diesel Performance in Elon, to relocate his business to a parcel at 117 Enterprise Drive in Madison Heights. Blevins said his business has outgrown its current space at 2450 Elon Road and the larger facility helps him expand and offer more services.

The rezoning seeks to switch the parcel from M-1, industrial district, to B-2, general commercial district. Bryant said while the county doesn’t want to lose too much of industrial-zoned property the commercial district allows for a lot of uses, including light manufacturing.

The recommendations will head to the board of supervisors for review and final action.

ch Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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