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Gator can stay put at Port Huron restaurant

6:53 AM, Dec 18, 2013   |    comments
Wally the alligator hangs out in its area inside Cajun Gator in downtown Port Huron. The Port Huron city council voted Monday night to allow the American alligators in the Central Business District. (MARK R. RUMMEL/TIMES HERALD)
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PORT HURON, Mich. (Times Herald) -- Wally the alligator will stay put to greet guests at the Cajun Gator restaurant in downtown Port Huron.

The Port Huron City Council voted 4-2 to allow American alligators in the Central Business District.

Councilman Brian Moeller was absent. Councilman Ken Harris and Councilwoman Anita Ashford voted no.

"I'm not comfortable with it," Ashford said. "...My answer is no, no, no."

The council also approved a second reading and enactment of ordinance changes that would prohibit future rental developments in areas of the city.

Areas zoned as R districts - single-family residential - will no longer welcome future rental development, except in cases of hardship.

Existing rental units will remain in place, unless they are changed back to owner occupied homes.

People living in areas zoned R-1 - single- or two-family residential - can petition to create a rental overlay district that operates under the same rules as an R district.

"We want to give the neighbors the ability to control their own destiny," said city manager Bruce Brown.

Joseph Brown, an appraisal officer for Eastern Michigan Bank, said the new zoning ordinances could impact appraisals and property values.

"The demand for this type of property, typically, is involving homeowners and investors," Brown said. "When we decrease the demand to just homeowners, we decrease the demand."

The council voted 6-0 to approve the R and R-1 zoning districts. Harris asked to table the R-1 ordinance, but his motion was not seconded.

Mayor Pro-Tem Sherri Archibald asked Joseph Brown to keep data for future consideration on any negative impacts the ordinances create.

About $185,000 in Michigan Department of Transportation mitigation funds was allocated to the McMorran Civic Center Authority for the purchase of a new electronic sign.

"We think it will be a big image booster for the facility," said Mark Neal, a member of the McMorran Civic Center Authority board.

Members of the McMorran board were reappointed to two- and four-year terms.

Archibald will take Harris' place on the McMorran board as the city council liaison member. The position is non-voting.

The council also held a special meeting after the regular meeting to discuss goals for 2014.

The board discussed finding a replacement for city manager Bruce Brown, the future sale of a McMorran Place lot to Blue Water Area Transit, and the future of the Sperry's property.

"That is a building that doesn't look very good in our downtown area," Bruce Brown said.

Other goals mentioned by council members included continued growth, educational goals, and waterfront enhancement at Lakeside Beach.

Written by Beth LeBlanc, Times Heald

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