New Orleans is at a crucial junction.

In March, the City Council is expected to begin debating a sweeping set of new zoning rules, the first overhaul of the city's development guidelines since the 1970s.

The rules will shepherd the city's future. As drafted by city planners, they tinker with an array of aspects of public life in this city still rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina.

The proposed code also hits the reset button on development of large slices of highly valuable but under-utilized commercial land adjacent to the Mississippi River in prime downtown real estate spots.

Just how land along the river should be developed has become a thorny topic — with neighborhood groups aligning themselves against what they perceive as outsized plans for high-rise condominiums for the rich.