Newlyweds Devin Gray and Barbara Sisco pause to take in the Potomac River during a stroll along the Alexandria waterfront in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in 2011. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

The Virginia Supreme Court will hear an appeal by opponents of the Alexandria waterfront plan who argue that the City Council should have been required to pass it last January by a supermajority vote.

The case, which was rejected by the Circuit Court in March, will probably be heard in the spring, nearly two years after residents began protesting the city’s plans to redevelop the Potomac River shoreline in Old Town Alexandria.

The council passed a modified plan Jan. 21 by a 5 to 2 vote, which was one short of a supermajority. The controversy, which consumed civic discussion for most of 2011, moved into the courts and electoral politics.

Friends of the Alexandria Waterfront, the renamed grass-roots group that fought the city’s plan, declared the Supreme Court’s agreement to hear the case “a tremendous victory” because it keeps alive their hope to overturn the plan.

“We still think we have a very strong factual and legal position,” City Attorney James Banks said, and added that he thinks the court took the case because it involves “a very interesting underlying legal issue.”

The case stems from a last-minute attempt by nearby waterfront residents to force a supermajority vote by the council. Their attorney tried to file an appeal to the Board of Zoning Appeals the day before the City Council took up the matter, but the city’s planning and zoning office would not accept it. Farroll Hamer, the city’s planning director, would not accept the petition during the council meeting either.

The Board of Zoning Appeals in April sided with the protesters, and the city promptly appealed that decision to the Circuit Court, which will hear oral arguments in the spring.

The city recently won a Circuit Court decision on the related issue of the use of Wales Alley near the Alexandria waterfront. The Old Dominion Boat Club announced today that it will appeal that decision.

The controversy launched several local political campaigns for both the City Council and mayoral seat.