The Alexandria City Council is considering seeking a developer to build a 160-room hotel near the waterfront in Old Town as a means of recovering half a million dollars that one council member declared was "ripped off" by the federal government.

The proposal encountered some stiff opposition at a public hearing last night from citizens who argued either for the city's original plan to sell the property to town house developers or for leaving the land as it is--undeveloped and providing a vista to the Potomac River.

Vice Mayor James P. Moran Jr. (D) said the General Services Administration agreed two years ago to sell the 1.3-acre parking lot at N. Lee and Queen streets to the city for $925,000.

Soon after the Reagan administration took office, Moran said, the GSA reassessed the property and raised the price to $1.5 million, which the city agreed to pay.

"We were simply ripped off," Moran said.

The city is contesting the higher charge in the U. S. Court of Claims, but meanwhile the hotel proposal has been advanced as an attempt to recover the difference in the two prices since a hotel would yield more property taxes than town houses would.

There was disagreement on the council. Council member Carlyle C. Ring (R) favored town houses and said, "We should stand by our original commitment." He added that a better place for a hotel would be near the city's soon-to-open Metro stations.

Council member Donald P. Casey (D) said the hotel would be a good idea if it could be scaled down but with its planned two-level underground parking garage retained.

The council set further consideration for March 8.

In other action, the council voted 6 to 1 to approve a land swap with a local businessman, settling one of the last of the property disputes that have stalled development on the city's waterfront.

The city agreed to give Thomas H. Andrews two plots of surplus land--8,000 square feet near the Braddock Road Metro Station and 11,000 square feet near the Alexandria Scrap Corp.--in exchange for his 17,000 square-foot parcel at Montgomery Street and the river.