The Arlington County Board approved rezoning for the Colonial Village garden apartment complex early today that will clear the way for construction of high-rise office buildings near the recently opened Metro Orange Line subway extension.

The board's action will allow construction of 760,000 square feet of office space -- more than double the amount of office space allowed under the previous zoning -- in 12-story buildings.

The controversial rezoning, which drew strong opposition and neighborhood and citizen groups, is the first move toward major redevelopment near the courthouse Metro stop that opened Dec. 1.

Colonial Village is located only three miles from downtown Washington, midway between Rosslyn and Clarendon.

Spokesman for a subsidiary of Mobil Corp., which owns the low-to-moderate-rent garden apartment complex, said the boards's action should enable the company to proceed with plans to convert the area into a mixture of condominiums, cooperative apartments and high-rise office buildings.

The board voted 3 to 2 in favor of the rezoning. Voting in favor were chairman Dorothy J. Grotos and members Walter L. Frankland Jr. and Stephen H. Detweiler. Board member Ellen M. Bozman and John W. Purdy voted against it.

The board also approved a pedestrian tunnel between the proposed high-rise buildings and the Metro stop with Mobile paying three-fourths of the expected $1 million construction costs and the county the remainder.

At a more than five-hour public hearing that preceded the vote early today, Colonial Village residents voiced concern that Mobil's redevelopment would sharply reduce the mount of low and medium cost rental housing vilble in Arlington. Colonial Village currently has about 1,000 units for rent. Under Mobil's plan, the number of units would increase to more than 1,700, but only a fraction would remain available for low and moderate income renters.

Opponents also said the plan would disrupt the complex's quality of life, that it would increase traffic on nearby streets and that the high rises would have an adverse effect on an elementary school near the complex.

As part of it's overall redevelopment Mobil has offered to preserve the red brick exterior of 742 units, keep some of the 12 acres of open space and reserve for a five-year period about 585 rental units for current tenants who cannot afford to buy into the development.

The board's vote did not determine a number of the conditions under which Mobil will be able to develop the site, including such items as the number of units Mobil will reserve for the low-to-moderate rentals. The board was still considering these issues early today.