The D.C. Court of Appeals has agreed to rehear an appeal on a citywide referendum on the building of a downtown convention center.

Previously, a three-judge panel of the court upheld a lower court decision that the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics had acted properly in refusing to authorize a city-wide referendum on construction of the center because Congress had already appropriated funds for the controversial $100 million complex.

However, in a brief order issued Thursday, the entire nine-member court scheduled new oral arguments "as soon as the business of the Court permits." The order also vacated the three judge panel's opinion written by Chief Judge Theodore R. Newman Jr. on Sept. 3.

William Schultz, lawyer for the Convention Center Referendum Committee, said he was satisfied with the latest court order. The committee had collected more than 15,000 signatures on a petition in 1978 supporting a public vote in order to block the convention center project. Opponents of the center said they feared it would be a money loser and a burden on taxpayers.

But D.C. Superior Court Judge Fred B. Ugast ruled against the group because Congress had already appropriated funds for the project.