A citizens group opposed to Alexandria's redevelopment plans for the city's iconic waterfront scored a major victory last week when a zoning appeals board halted the project on the grounds that the city wrongly derailed residents' efforts to block it.

The group Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan has been campaigning for months to halt the city's redevelopment plan, which members say would mar the character of the waterfront at the foot of Old Town. As part of that effort, the group filed a petition that would have required six of the seven city council members to support the waterfront plan before it could be initiated. The city rejected that petition, and the residents appealed that rejection.

The zoning appeals board's decision effectively declared that the city was in the wrong.

"The big thing about it is that the citizens who filed it and have been supporting it feel like this is the first real fair hearing we've received in a long time in this process," said Andrew Macdonald, the group's chairman, who's also running for mayor in Alexandria. "The bottom line is, we feel vindicated."

City officials shrugged off the zoning board's decision, saying the protest petition only affects how the city implements zoning for the waterfront plan and doesn't overturn the plan itself. The city is considering a legal appeal of the decision but was set to "discuss and evaluate all options" in a closed session Sunday.

But Alexandria Mayor William Euille said in the statement that the zoning changes targeted by the protest petition are "a critical element of the plan."

"City Council will need to discuss the [appeals board's] decision and determine how to move forward, because this component is not only important to shaping the future of Alexandria's waterfront, but also critical to the future of development in our city," he said.

Macdonald said he and his organization are ready for a fight, however.

"They've hired highly expensive outside attorneys to represent them. They're spending an enormous amount of taxpayer dollars to fight citizens," he said. "I think we're going to wait to see what the city does. The battle goes on."