A dispute between the Alexandria City Council and a group of residents over plans to add high-rise hotels to the city's iconic waterfront is wending its way to Virginia's highest court.

Residents opposed to the waterfront plan are asking the Virginia Supreme Court to force the council to rescind its approval of controversial zoning changes to the waterfront.

The case now being appealed is one of three legal challenges to the council's plans to redevelop land along the Potomac River at the foot of Old Town. Two of those challenges involve zoning changes that would allow the construction of high-rise hotels and denser development that the council said are needed to generate tax revenue for the city. The third is seeking to overturn the waterfront plan entirely.

Earlier this year, residents filed a petition that would have required the support of six of the seven council members to pass zoning changes for the waterfront. The city rejected that petition, only to have the Board of Zoning Appeals rule in favor of the residents last month.

The case now heading to the state Supreme Court would force the city to overturn the waterfront zoning vote entirely. Filed by three longtime Alexandria residents known as "the Iron Ladies," the suit was dismissed twice by the circuit court. Still, Roy Shannon, the women's lawyer, last week began the long process of appealing to Virginia's Supreme Court.

"We're concerned about the process. There's a lot of development going on, and the process needs to be something we can rely on," Shannon said.

The city has vigorously defended its decision to redevelop the waterfront, challenging the Board of Zoning Appeals' decision and filing motions to dismiss the circuit court case. But city attorney Jim Banks wouldn't speculate on any possible actions by the state Supreme Court.

"There are so many moving parts with so many potential outcomes," he said. "I really do understand it's an issue that involves a lot of passionate emotion for a lot of people. I don't want to make light of any of those concerns."