Alexandria and the Department of Interior are close to a compromise in the long-running controversy about how the 1.5-mile Potomac waterfront in that city should be used.

The proposed agreement reserves about 70 percent of the valuable land for open space, allows commercial development relating to water use on the remaining land and gives control of the area to Alexandria as long as the new land-use guidelines are met.

"We've got an agreement in principle that gives roughly three quarters of the use of open space," Rep. Stanford E. Parris (R-8th District0 said yesterday.

"You always get some people unhappy with anything anytime you get a compromise," Parris said, "but I think the majority of the people of Alexandria would like to see the city of Alexandria would like to see the city of Alexandria reach a land use agreement that would show some kind of improvement."

Ellen Pickering, president of the 388-member Northern Virginia Conservation Council, said yesterday the proposal "sounds like some of the things we wanted." However, Pickering said she was "anxious to see some of the terms. I'm still looking for the slipholes. . . I can't help but be suspicious."

Pickering said her group is worried about whether the river will be filled in the future, what will happen along the shoreline, who will maintain the area and whether construction will be allowed in the floodplain. Pickering said her group supports federal control of the land to insure that the city will not allow too much development on the land.

Alexandria city manager Douglas Harman said yesterday that discussions between the city attorney and Justice attorneys had been going on for several weeks. An agreement is a few steps away, he said, pending "certain concerns that need to be revised." Harman declined to disclose those concerns.

Parris, however, said one of the city wanted clearer, more precise legal descriptions of the waterfront land. Parris said the proposed agreement hasn't been signed because of legal wording and other details yet to be worked out. He confirmed that under the agreement the federal government will relinquish control of the land to Alexandria.

The 30 percent of the property to be used for water-related commercial uses such as marinas or shipping includes "very restrictive height limits and specifics as to use," Parris said. The open space will be available for activities such as bike paths and walkways, he said.

Parris said the city also was concerned about wording on how the agreement will be enforced. The orignial agreement said the waterfront land would be given back to the federal government if the city didn't live up to its part of the agreement, Parris said. The new wording, he said, says the federal government may "step in" and enforce land use specifications but not take back control of the land.

Harman said the agreement was discussed during an executive session before the city council's special meeting on Wednesday and will be discussed again at a meeting next Tuesday.