Vienna last week took the first step toward what town officials called protecting its residential character when the Town Council voted to appoint a blue-ribbon citizens advisory panel to study guidelines to keep undesirable development at bay.

The panel will be appointed within the next two months and will report its recommendations to the council in six months.

"The council feels that, with interest rates coming down, the time may be ripe for redevelopment," said Marie Kisner, Vienna town government spokeswoman. "Some of these buildings are 20 to 30 years old, and with the intensity of development going on around us, we need to know best how to go about redevelopment."

Current regulations governing building density and the town's three-story height limitation probably will be kept intact, Mayor Charles A. Robinson Jr. said. No additional land will be rezoned commercial, he said.

At the same time, the council adopted an emergency ordinance designed to keep the lid on any redevelopment until the council can act on its panel's recommendations.

"We want to make certain that, when redevelopment comes, it will preserve the usefulness, vigor and profitability of the business core, reflect responsively on the tax base, and be attractive," Robinson said.