Virginia Beach, Va. - Virginia Beach City Council unanimously voted to approve Piney Grove Baptist Church's expansion on Tuesday night in a packed meeting with a huge turnout on both sides.
The historically black church is expanding into a majority white neighborhood, but both sides say the debate wasn't about race. The pastor had posted on Facebook, warning his followers about a group planning to show up to the meeting with Confederate Flags, but no flags were at the meeting.
"We always want to look at things as race when it's predominately black on one side and predominately white on the other side of the issue," said Pastor D.L. Williams. "I think as decent human beings, we should be able to have opposing views without people attributing it to race."
The big issue surrounded a planned parking lot that many neighbors don't want. It would go in place of a house and woods on Bald Eagle Road. The Church bought the house last August, but neighbors said a paved lot would take away from the neighborhood's character. "I moved into a neighborhood expecting to be in a neighborhood, not a parking lot," said Buddy Sparrow, a neighbor.
The meeting was filled with speakers, but stayed civil. In the end, the council wound up agreeing with the church. Several council members said the church was on the right side of the law, and they shouldn't do anything to stop the expansion.