The case of a North Cambridge developer inched forward last week, as Joseph Perroncello, serving as his own lawyer, agreed to a jury trial and to return to court Oct. 21.

The Thursday appearance was brief, according to residents who attended.

“It was very brief, he was in and out,” said North Cambridge attorney and watchdog Richard Clarey on Sunday. “The case was called by a judge and scheduled for a jury trial in a matter of minutes. People just disappeared afterward.”

Perroncello could have opted for a bench trial, in which the judge would have decided the case alone.

The swiftness of the hearing, at Middlesex District Court in Medford, stood in contrast to the case’s lengthy history.

Perroncello, a Boston resident, is converting a three-building Roman Catholic school into condominiums at a 2.2-acre, L-shaped site touching on Yerxa Road and Rindge Avenue by wrapping around other people’s property. Neighbors have complained for nearly six years that he has failed to clean the site or keep work within allowed hours. They say construction has drawn rats with garbage and caused flooding and cracked foundations at nearby homes. He also brought in tenants illegally, although he was given temporary permission by the city — via short-term versions of documents called certificates of occupancy — to lease units in one building while the others are under construction.

For the first time Thursday, Perroncello’s efforts to clean the site seemed eager rather than grudging, resident Charles Teague reported. Work crews were at the site even after the court date, he said, while work in the past had been done only shortly before Perroncello’s appearances in court. The developer owes thousands in back taxes in Cambridge and Boston and seems to be in financial distress.

In this case, the residents reported, work crews were at the site before and after the hearing, collecting rubbish, emptying a Dumpster and using a small construction vehicle to flatten a pile of excavated dirt.

Attorney Joseph Amoroso is handling the case for the city. Two members of the city’s Inspectional Services department were also said to be on hand during the brief Thursday court appearance.

This post was updated Aug. 26 to correct the size of Perroncello’s property and to say the court appearance took place on a Thursday. An incorrect day of the week had been named.