Montgomery County Executive Sidney Kramer, saying the controversy over the banning of buses from Wheaton Plaza was merely a misunderstanding, announced yesterday that bus service will resume this morning under an agreement in which the county will reimburse the shopping mall for wear and tear to its private roads.

Kramer met Wednesday with representatives of Wheaton Plaza management to discuss the two-week-old ban that caused an outcry from county officials and citizens groups criticizing the ban as an apparent attempt to discourage lower-income people from patronizing the shopping center at University Boulevard and Veirs Mill Road.

Kramer, who had said this week that he was angered by the ban on Metro and county Ride-On buses, said yesterday he was convinced that mall officials never intended to prohibit buses, only to change the location of the bus stops. He said a breakdown in communication caused a misunderstanding and he apologized for "any misunderstanding that statements by county officials may have created concerning this matter."

Kramer said county agreement to participate in maintenance of roads used by buses was not a condition for resumption of the bus service. He said he felt mall officials had a legitimate point that the buses cause damage and he voluntarily made the offer. He had no estimate of the costs involved.

Metro officials will not enter into such an agreement because it would be an inappropriate use of tax money, Metro spokeswoman Beverly Silverberg said yesterday.

Kramer, whose business interests include a shopping center, congratulated Wheaton Plaza for being a good neighbor, and he disassociated himself from critical comments made by county Transportation Director Robert S. McGarry.

"Much of the rhetoric that has taken place over the last two weeks indeed was only rhetoric and not fact, and served no constructive purpose," Kramer said during a spirited afternoon news conference in which reporters frankly challenged his version of events.

Kramer said that the misunderstanding took place during an Aug. 7 meeting of mall representatives and officials from Metro and the county Transportation Department. He said county and Metro officials apparently misunderstood the mall's position that the bus stop needed to be relocated because of construction at the plaza.

However, the county official present at the meeting and Metro's Silverberg reaffirmed yesterday that plaza officials told them they didn't want public bus service on the private mall property.

Asked Metro's impression of the Aug. 7 meeting, Silverberg said, "We deal with facts, and the fact is we were operating on private property . . . at the pleasure of the property owner. In this case {Wheaton Plaza}, the property owner asked us to leave and we had no recourse but to honor that request."

David Bone of the Montgomery County Transportation Department said that at no time did mall officials say the move was temporary, and said he stood behind his version of the meeting.

Representatives of the mall management, Resource Realty Inc., were unavailable for comment throughout the controversy, and could not be reached again yesterday.

Critics of the bus ban, including advocates for senior citizens and minority and civil rights activists, branded it a racist and class-biased move designed to drive low-income bus riders from the mall in favor of affluent customers. The ban was portrayed as a particular hardship for the elderly who frequent the mall.

Since Aug. 15, buses that once stopped outside the Woodward & Lothrop store were diverted to stops several hundred yards away on Veirs Mill Road or Reedie Drive. Starting today, buses will resume using the bus stop in front of Woodies. Beginning Sept. 4, the stop will be a short distance away on the other side of the mall roadway to accommodate a new traffic plan, Kramer said.

McGarry, who had been in the forefront of the criticism with harsh words for plaza officials, was not present at yesterday's news conference. A county spokeswoman said he was out of town at his daughter's wedding.