RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Raleigh City Council discussed a major road re-zoning project to build a bus line along New Bern Avenue.
On Tuesday night, more than 70 members of the public signed up to speak, both in favor and opposition to the plan. The special meeting was held in a packed chamber and lasted more than four hours.
Longtime Raleigh resident Anthony Pope said development along the BRT line and the potential rezoning is nothing but a money grab.
"It really comes down to money. Because that's what it's all about. It's about these developers and all these people that are buying up the Black property padding their pockets. They're going to walk away from it because they don't live here," Pope said.
The primary concerns presented by the opposition surrounded potential displacement and gentrification as a result of the proposed rezoning - particularly in a historically Black part of the city.
More than 700 acres of land are at stake. The BRT line would run 5 miles down New Bern between downtown Raleigh and WakeMed and New Hope Road.
Critics pointed out it's an area they argued already has more density than most in Raleigh.
"If this is really about density, why don't we upzone all the subdivisions that have nothing but big houses on big lots?" asked Matthew Brown.
Denzel Burnside runs Wake Up Wake County - a nonprofit that focuses on sustainable growth. It supports the rezoning but said the project's rollout needs to be tactful.
"If it's done right, if everybody is engaged right on the table, you can make sure you get things done properly where you don't displace the community and they can have access, a long-term buy-in because it's the people that make up the area," said Burnside.
In response to a question about displacement - and whether residents whose properties could surge in value as a result of development could be made whole in the long-term - Burnside said: it's complicated.
"We're talking about legacy communities here that have had invested interest," he said. "And you can say my grandmother went to that church and my dad went here and we're buried. We've got family members here. And then to come back and not be able to see any of those landmarks, it is the people who make up the city."
Other supporters contend the proposal gives Raleigh a chance to "grow up."
"It envisions a beautiful main street, and transit-rich, walkable communities that distinguish great American cities," Tom Barrie said.
So far, the city has invested more than $2 million to build more affordable housing, help people buy homes for the first time, and prevent the displacement of existing residents.