The fairfax County Board of Supervisors, in a 5-to-4 vote, delayed a decision yesterday on whether to repeal the county's controversial bottle law.

The supervisors voted shortly before a scheduled public hearing on the issue to defer the matter until after the Virginia State Supreme Court hears a challenge to a similar law.

The Fairfax law, effective 18 months ago, requires refundable deposits -- 5 cents in most cases -- on all soft drink containers sold in the county. The Fairfax ordinance, similar to one in neighboring Loudoun County that is being challenged in court, does not require deposits on beer and other beverage containers.

The primary intent of the law was to reduce roadside litter, but opponents and soft drink bottlers contend it has been ineffective. They also say it is unpopular with consumers and has driven business away from the county and into localities, such as Fairfax City that do not have deposit laws.

Supporters say a survey they made recently shows broad support for the law and that it is saving consumers money.

Voting to defer action on the ordinance were supervisors Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville), Marie B. Travesky (R-Springfield), James M. Scott (D-Providence), Audrey Moore (D-Annandale) and Sandra L. Duckworth (D-Mount Vernon). Voting against the delay were supervisors Thomas M. David II (R-Mason), who originally proposed repeal, and board chairman John F. Herrity (R) Nancy K. Falck (R-Dranesville) and Joseph Alexander (D-Lee).