A plan to sell the troubled Chillum Heights Apartments to a Montgomery County company is on hold, at least for this year.

Since the summer, Artery Organization of Chevy Chase has considered buying and renovating the 953-unit complex in Hyattsville. Anticipating the purchase, the Prince George's County Council rushed through an application in July for $34 million to $38 million in tax-exempt financing on Artery's behalf. The bill remains in committee.

But last week, Major Riddick, director of the county's Office of Housing and Community Development, said that the parties involved -- the county, the Artery Organization and the owner of the complex, Joseph Ratner of New York -- have been unable to reach an agreement on the sale. Artery's option to buy the apartments expired Oct. 21.

The future of the complex has been uncertain since April, when the county ordered Chillum's management to stop filling vacancies, an order that remains in effect. Officials cited more than 200 code violations in the aging buildings, ranging from ancient boilers to leaking water heaters. Less than half the units are occupied.

Riddick said Artery officials have asked for what amounts to a $2 million tax break: a real estate tax abatement over a 10-year period. He said county officials are wary of making such a concession.

In order to grant the tax abatement, legislation would have to be approved by the County Council and the county executive, and county officials said there is not enough time to do this before the legislative session ends Dec. 1.

Neither Ratner nor officials of Artery could be reached for comment last week.

"As far as I know, the deal with Artery is not dead," Joseph Healey, chief of the county's Office of Property Standards, said last week.

Healey said that no other prospective buyers are admitting to negotiations with Ratner, but he added: "Ratner appears to want to sell, and there are buyers out there.