Residents push back against proposed homeless shelter in Eagan

In Eagan, community members have made their voices heard over plans to convert an empty hotel into a homeless shelter. For now, it seems their concerns will halt the Dakota County project.

"You know, that hotel is already problematic... there's a lot of crime that currently happens there," said a resident.

During a hearing that lasted for more than three hours and saw a standing-room-only crowd overflowing into the hall, Dakota County commissioners heard overwhelmingly negative feedback. The discussion centered on a proposal to purchase the Norwood Inn and Suites in Eagan to serve as a homeless shelter.

"I'm very concerned about our property taxes... I'm very concerned about our house values," said another resident.

The proposal involves buying the hotel for $24 million and includes an urgency to apply for a $10 million state grant by Thursday.

"I really wish this would have been publicized a little more. because there would have been a lot more people here," said another speaker.

Critics not only complained that the process seemed rushed, but they also raised concerns that the property is too close to residential homes, a daycare, and businesses. The owner of Ansari's Mediterranean Grill next door to the hotel says there are already problems with the building. He worries a permanent shelter will make it worse. 

"It wouldn't benefit the business... we would be cut in half, we would be... we'd have to close... we'd have to start over somewhere else," said David Ansari.

The board members appeared to be significantly affected by the public criticism. "I sit here today so frustrated because you're right... this meeting should have been in the evening. There should have been eight or ten of them," said Mary Liz Holberg, a Dakota County Commissioner.

Several commissioners mentioned that the hotel could still be a good fit and that the need for a shelter is very clear.

"I have people who are very close to me in my life... who are homeless," said Mary Hamann-Roland, Dakota County commissioner.

However, they agreed that more time and community support are needed before a decision on the location is made.

"It's not going to happen today, but we're going to do it," said Hamann-Roland.

The county board will continue to look for other opportunities for a shelter but the hotel site will stay in the mix for the time being.