The man's questions cut through the hot, muggy air inside the Linden Hills Recreation Center.
"Do you know about the soil contamination?" he asked. "What about seismograph tests? Do you know about seismograph tests?"
"I feel like I'm being interrogated here," responded Mark Dwyer, the face of a proposed commercial and residential development at 43rd and Upton avenues in Linden Hills.
"Well, you should be," the man shot back.
This isn't the kind of exchange you'd typically hear at a Linden Hills Neighborhood Council meeting. Patch was unable to get the man's name before he left mid-meeting, but he wasn't the only person to grill Dwyer. About 35 people attended Tuesday's meeting. And while other project critics were less aggressive, the interaction encapsulated the reaction many neighbors have had over what they perceive as a lack of community input into aspects of Dwyer's plans.
Dwyer is proposing a five-story commercial development that would include almost three dozen condos, a handful of business spaces and at least one restaurant on the former Famous Dave's lot. Some local businesses and neighbors have criticized the project's size and the increased congestion it would bring to the neighborhood, saying it doesn’t fit in with the pedestrian-friendly feel to the area. Dwyer, volunteer president of the Linden Hills Business Association, hasn't yet submitted his application for the project to the city. He and his design team, many of whom are based in the area, have presented designs at several initial community meetings.
After Tuesday's meeting, Dwyer rejected complaints that he hasn't sought enough community input, saying he and his fellow investors have tried many forms of outreach since they started work on the development three years ago.
"I don't think anybody could try any harder than we are," Dwyer said. "(We are) a group of people putting their hearts and souls into it."
When asked if he felt the community would roll over and accept his development plans, he said, "I never expected that. There are too many smart people (in Linden Hills) with too many different opinions to expect that."
Dwyer seemed eager to mend fences during the meeting, offering his cell phone number to a neighbor worried about construction noise. He later offered to meet the development's neighbors for coffee to discuss their differences, and he requested interested parties to contact him at email@example.com.
Still, he suggested that the frustrated Lake Harriet residents at Tuesday night's meeting weren't representative of the larger neighborhood community. He said there were many more "passive" supporters of his development, and said his proposed development would meet the economic development needs of the "whole neighborhood." Focusing attention on the demands of "a single group," he said, would not meet those needs.
Development opponents Terry Schlack and Laurie Dockendorf alleged that Dwyer had not been thorough in his approach to seeking community input.
Opponents of the project didn't seem swayed Tuesday.
"I don't know where he's been," said Terry Schlack. "He says he's solicited the neighborhood, but he never contacted our building (adjoining the proposed development) until May."
Linden Hills resident Michael Altmann laid blame at the feet of the overall process through which developers try to build community support.
"We have all bought into an organizational model wherein the community waits for a developer to put forward a proposal and then we react," he said in an email, noting this approach was a recipe for overheated contention.
Correction: This article originally misstated a quote from resident Michael Altman.