A Montgomery County hearing examiner has recommended delaying a developer's plan to build 798 new homes and townhouses on Rte. 28 in Gaithersburg because of traffic congestion on the heavily traveled road.

In a recommendation issued recently, hearing examiner Philip J. Tierney said rezoning of the 221-acre tract at Rte. 28 and Dufief Mill Road -- which would permit three homes per acre instead of the present maximum of two homes per acre -- should be "deferred" until funds are available to improve Rte. 28, the area's only major access road.

Opponents of the development plan has testified before the hearing examiner that congestion along Rte. 28 during peak travel times is intolerable. Further development, they complained, would aggravate the situation.

The County Council will act on the hearing examiner's recommendation in early August, according to a council aide.

If the council opts not to delay the project, the hearing examiner has recommended denying the developer's request for rezoning.

Both the developer of the subdivision, to be known as Stonebridge, and homeowners along Rte. 28, who oppose it, are proclaiming victory.

"We got more than we thought we would," said Steve Sher, a civic leader. "We said they had to do something about the poor road conditions. It was a heavy lobbying effort by neighbors."

Other community leaders, who canvassed their neighborhood to raise $10,000 to hire an attorney and traffic engineer, expressed surprise and pleasure at the decision.

Stonebridge developer Gordon Smith, president of Miller and Smith Inc. of McLean, said he looked at the decision as a victory. "Now we just have to find a solution to the Rte. 28 traffic problem and we've got our zoning."

According to Gerald R. Cichy, director of transportation for the county, slightly more than $1 million has been set aside in the county's Capital Improvements Program (CIP) to improve Rte. 28.

However, the hearing examiner said in his written statement that "None of currently funded road improvements would support full development of Stonebridge without the realignment of Rte. 28."

Smith, who is also president of an association of residential and commercial developers along the Rte. 28 and Rte. 270 corridor, said his group might contribute funds to step up the road construction schedule. He also said his group has moved to enlist financial support from the State Highway Administration to push up the road improvement plan.