Every time members of the Inver Grove Heights City Council looked up during a Feb. 23 meeting, they saw a crowd dotted with bright yellow buttons reading "Save Argenta Homes."
The Argenta Trail realignment project could take out more than 10 homes. It's made activists of the people living in the close-knit community, and has drawn in supporters from across the south metro.
This opposition, coupled with some council members' uncertainty about the roadway plans, has pushed the council to take a step back and hear out stakeholders before making a decision.
"Hopefully we can strike a good compromise that works for all parties," said resident Chad Hagman, whose home could be on the chopping block. "We're optimistic, but there's a lot to do yet, at the same time."
The realignment project, intended to connect Hwy. 55 and Interstate 494 in order to serve anticipated development, is a joint effort between the city and Dakota County. The county has put forth five options for the project's northern side, where the highest number of home acquisitions — up to 10 — could occur. All five options include at least one acquisition.
The council was set to choose one of the five options at its Feb. 23 meeting, where the crowd spilled out of the council chambers and resident after resident expressed their concerns.
Many brought up a sixth realignment option, called "3A," created by 17-year resident Brian Zahn after seeing the county's plans.
"I just took option 3 and just drew a couple black lines on it," he said.
Option 3A has its own drawbacks — it would displace some existing homes, a power line and a wetland. Resident Linda Flannery said her home would likely be among those taken out, but she's all right with it.
"We don't want to live in a lurch anymore," she said. "We want some answers."
Option 3A would also cut out a number of potential homes for the Blackstone Ridge development, set for construction in what's currently a farm field.
As the hours ticked by at the Feb. 23 meeting, Blackstone Ridge developer Jim Deanovic approached the podium. Though residents have said they're not opposed to the development, they have questioned why the City Council would choose to remove existing homes rather than cut through undeveloped land. Some have suggested that the council is more interested in expanding the city's tax base than in meeting residents' needs.
When asked to state his name, Deanovic said, "I don't know that I want to be Jim Deanovic, but I am," drawing laughter from the crowd.
"Give us a little time to meet with staff and really look at this a little closer and we'll see what we can do," he said. "If it works, it works, and if it doesn't, it doesn't."
The crowd applauded as he returned to his seat.