Developers of Potomac Greens, a $500 million, 2.8 million-square-foot project proposed across from National Airport, have told Alexandria officials that they are ready to pursue a $25 million lawsuit to get the project built.

"It is clear that the only economically feasible development that will be permitted at Potomac Greens will be that which is ordered by a court," Potomac Green developers said in a recent statement given to the City Council.

The blunt language is in response to a plan put forth by four council members, a majority of the council, that would limit development to less than a third of what company officials had proposed for two projects slated for one of the largest undeveloped urban tracts on the East Coast. The second development, called Alexandria 20/20, is the Potomac Yard railroad switching facility, which also runs alongside the George Washington Parkway across from the airport.

The council has taken no formal action on the projects.

Calling for a combined 19 million square feet of office, residential and retail space, the projects, if approved as proposed, would create an urban center twice the acreage of Tysons II and about the size of Old Town.

The proposals have placed developers at odds with civic activists, who maintain that the projects would destroy the city's small-town character.

Early last month, Democratic council members Kerry J. Donley, T. Michael Jackson and Patricia S. Ticer, in part responding to citizen concerns, proposed limiting development in the Potomac Yard corridor to 6 million square feet, with 80 percent to 90 percent of the area designated for residential use. Within days, council member Redella S. Pepper (D) signed on to the proposal, meaning it could become the City Council's official position on the matter when the council considers zoning changes that will shape the size and scale of the two projects.

"The allowable development under this proposal is such that Potomac Greens could not even approach feasibility," said a letter on behalf of Savage/Fogarty Cos. Inc. of Alexandria, which has proposed the Potomac Greens development along with the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad.

Potomac Greens officials appear tired of squabbling with the city over a project that they have tried for three years to get approved. The city's latest proposal "cannot even be a starting point for discussions" and "further discussion in this regard would be futile," the developers' statement to the council said.

Denton Kent, executive director of Alexandria 20/20, which is being proposed by RF&P and CSX Realty, told council members at a recent work session "that there is no way to finance" the plan proposed by Ticer, Donley and Jackson. In an Oct. 19 letter, Kent termed the plan "a disappointing example of prejudgement."

But the authors of the council plan do not appear moved by the developers' sentiments. "We expected them to say that their projects weren't feasible {under the council's suggested changes}, which is exactly what they did," said Ticer, who is vice mayor. "They are driven by the bottom line . . . . We have a little different viewpoint than their vision."

Jackson said, "The other side has not come up with anything of substance that would change my mind."

Council member Lionel R. Hope (D) said his colleagues were "premature" in stating their position on the matter before it had been adequately studied by the staff or considered by the city Planning Commission. Hope said the measure proposed by the council members offered "little flexibility" and would reduce "future revenue that could provide relief to city homeowners."

Council member William C. Cleveland (R) said that in "these austere budget times, we should be building opportunities, not barriers. The developers are asking for too much and the citizens are asking for too little." Cleveland said he is reserving judgment until completion of several technical reports, including a transportation study. "I'm looking for the perfect balance."

Howard Middleton, a lawyer representing 20/20 and a former deputy city attorney in Alexandria, said the firm is concerned about the position of the four council members but is "hopeful that the process will produce a result that is beneficial to all." Asked about litigation, Middleton said, "I think that it is too early to think about that."

Ticer said she would not be surprised if the 20/20 proposal is resolved in court. "It's on our mind," Ticer said, "because of the way they {20/20 developers} present their case and because of the way they note all of our comments."