After debating the merits of split rail fences versus white picket fences, satellite dishes disguised as umbrellas was the main topic at a meeting last night of the Franklin Farm Architectural Review Board.

About 70 people showed up to give their opinions about Max Parsons' satellite dish, which is covered by a beach umbrella and mounted on a picnic table in his back yard. The architectural review board had told Parsons his antenna must be taken down by Aug. 16.

Last night Parsons appealed that decision to the board, but got no satisfaction as most speakers objected to the dish. The board referred Parsons' appeal to the nine-member board of trustees that governs the Franklin Farm subdivision in Herndon. The trustees' next meeting is in two weeks.

Among those in the audience who objected was Susan Chin, one of Parsons' neighbors, who declared: "It doesn't belong in Franklin Farm. The way it is right now is very unattractive. People don't realize it until they have to see it in person."

C.A. (Mac) McGillen Jr., general manager of Compusat TVRO Systems Inc., who installed the six-foot diameter dish in Parsons' back yard on July 15, told the board his company received many favorable responses after running an ad in newspapers in the Franklin Farm community as well as in Columbia, Md.

McGillen also solicited comments from the audience about how antennas could be made more acceptable, but got few responses.

Ellen Freihofer, chairwoman of the architectural review board, said that the dish antennas are not allowed in the community. But she added, "If we don't know it's there, it's not a problem. When we have neighbors all the way around complaining, then it is a problem."

Parsons objected to the facts that his letter of appeal was not recorded in the minutes of the board's meeting and that a TV cameraman and reporter he had invited were ushered out of the meeting.

"I really don't know what to do," he told a reporter. "I am kind of worried about going on vacation next week because there's a possibility they'll take it down. I have no plans to take it down."

Sharon Austin, executive director of the Franklin Farm Foundation, told the audience she asked the cameraman and reporter to leave because she didn't want to turn the meeting "into a circus."

Board of trustees member Tom Eckert said that any decisions to allow dish antennas at Franklin Farm must come before a vote of the entire community of 1,650 households. "The board of trustees will look at what the community wants. If they tell us they want 1,000 satellite dishes, then they can have that. The board tries the reflect the needs of the community."