MALIN — Malin City Council on Tuesday evening denied an appeal issued by a property owner seeking to have their lots changed from commercial to residential zoning.

The decision, split 4-2 among council members, ends an ongoing debate for much of this year in Malin; a community that has seen few construction projects for housing or new businesses in recent years. The denial came within a 30-day deadline to render a decision following a presentation by the property owner, Roy Carroll, on Sept. 13, alongside many impassioned residents in support of Carroll’s efforts.

The property in question comprises 12 adjacent commercial lots bought by Carroll in 2005, each measuring 27-feet wide by 151-feet deep, which have never held any buildings. Carroll purchased the lots intending to build apartments, but was denied a rezoning request. The 2008 recession prevented a commercial loan to pursue Carroll’s next construction concept for the site.

In May, Carroll petitioned the Malin Planning Commission to re-zone the properties from commercial to residential so that he could build new family homes, including his retirement home, while leaving a corner lot vacant for possible future commercial interests. The request was denied by the commission, citing a city public works report identifying a minimal amount of commercial zoned property still available within city limits per the community’s comprehensive plan.

At follow-up hearings numerous residents spoke out in favor of Carroll’s plan, bemoaning the lack of available properties to rent or own within the community. A comparatively small number of residents supported the denial.

Following the September hearing, Malin Mayor Gary Zieg issued a mayoral report regarding the burden of proof aspects that Carroll must meet for the appeal to be approved. Per the report, filed Friday, Oct. 5, the applicant bears burden of proof that the application meets requirements that the request is in accordance with the comprehensive plan, fits and best serves public need, and potential impact of area resulting from change has been considered.

In the report Zieg stated that the applicant failed to meet each of the criterion specified, and recommended that due to the findings of applicable criteria that the appeal application should be denied.

Malin Council member Ryan Bartholomew researched the matter further by calculating the number of properties currently listed for sale, checking prices of recent sales over the past three years, and comparing properties listed in Klamath Falls to that of Malin.

“Council agreed with Mayor Zieg in his comments that the comprehensive plan does encourage rental properties, but also Chapter 10 encourages commercial and residential to maintain a good balance,” said Bartholomew. “Based on the staff report from our public works director, there is very limited commercial property available versus 50 acres of residential property available. Four members of council agreed it’s important to keep that balance.”

Bartholomew presented findings on two subdivisions built in Malin in the 1970s – Kalina and Meadow Glen. Across both subdivisions he found that 12 lots remain vacant, with at least one actively for sale by owner for several years. While Bartholomew and other councilors took to heart impassioned pleas from residents supporting Carroll’s efforts, a majority of council members determined it remained in Malin’s best interest to maintain the limited commercial zoned lots that presently exist.

“One council member stated in their opinion we do need more housing and rentals, but not at the expense of losing commercial property,” added Bartholomew. “We have such a limited acreage of commercial; we do have passionate people who brought up good points, but not at the cost of losing our limited commercial property.”

At a Malin Planning Commission hearing in May, Carroll indicated that should the rezoning request be denied he would instead pursue grants to build a drug rehab facility on the site. For now, Carroll will instead take his appeal to the state level.

“My goal is to build houses first, the town needs multi-family units,” said Carroll. “I have had many people from the community come out in support of this project. The businesses are hurting in town without enough customers. There are lots in town that are buildable but nobody is selling them or building on them. Then the town took property in the middle of downtown to make a monument – why do that if commercial property is so valuable?”

The appeal Carroll is filing at the state level will have 21 days to review the Malin Planning Commission’s decision. Carroll cited perceived bias in hearings with both the Malin Planning Commission and City Council, noting that one council member who recused herself in 2005 didn’t do so this time, even though her family is actively fighting the proposal. Further, Carroll said that the chair of the Planning Commission had adjacent property easily re-zoned with far less hassle than what he has experienced.

Carroll also stated that his lots have been listed for sale for eight years, but the only interest he has received is from people wanting to build homes on the site – not commercial businesses. He bemoaned the way both the Planning Commission and City Council hearings were conducted, accusing Mayor Zieg and Planning Commission Chairman Rick Woodley of bias, intimidation and influence over other voting members throughout the process.

“I have gone through so much more than others have and keep being told that I am not meeting the criteria, but the supplemental materials I provided clearly showed that I have met that criteria,” said Carroll. “I feel there is a bias and prejudice against Hispanics building in the community.”

email kliedtke@heraldandnews.com @kliedtkeHN

Staff reporter for the Herald and News.