An attempt by the predominantly black residents of a backwoods enclave in Montgomery County to move out of poverty and sell their land for about $2.5 million to an apartment developer has thrown them into a high-stakes conflict with the county's only black County Council member.

At issue here -- in a vote scheduled for today by the council -- is the future of one of the last rural black villages in the eastern county, a settlement called April-Stewart Lane, near White Oak, that lacks county water, sewer and road service.

Council member Isiah Leggett said he is trying to block the sale -- for about $40,000 to $125,000 an acre -- because he believes that the developer is taking advantage of the dozen families. Also, Leggett said he had pledged to block additional construction in the crowded Rte. 29 corridor, where the county already restricts development.

Leggett is proposing instead that the county buy about 30 acres of the land, at a price equal to or higher than the developer's, for public use such as parkland.

"We wish he'd butt out and leave us alone," said Raymond Smith, a son of longtime landowners.

County Executive Sidney Kramer and Planning Board Chairman Norman L. Christeller have said they support the Master Plan amendment needed for the apartments, in part to compensate the April-Stewart community for the county government's past neglect. Some community residents believe that county officials discriminated against them by rejecting earlier efforts to rezone the land and thereby raise its value.

The 56-acre community has been ignored by officialdom since it was farmland in the early 1800s, and residents still depend on septic systems and wells. The county government said it has refused to extend the services in recent decades because the area, which adjoins Paint Branch Park, was designated for possible park use.

The dozen remaining households, including a number of retired persons, do not have house-to-house mail delivery, and the gravel roads remain unplowed when it snows. The neighborhood was once home to 40 to 50 families, many of whose heirs -- believed to number more than 100 -- retain an interest in the land disposition.

For more than two decades, April- Stewart residents watched all the adjoining residential property being lucratively rezoned and the nearby hills and valleys being leveled for garden apartments. When they tried to rezone 22 years ago, their bid was rejected. Now, they are again seeking rezoning "so we can get out of here," said Smith, a public relations consultant who is acting as spokesman for some of the families. Smith's parents, Percy and Gladys Smith, both in their seventies, have lived in their house on an unpaved stretch of April Lane for 53 years.

The developer, Faller Construction Co. of Rockville, has 17 of 22 available parcels under contract, but most of the sales are contingent on the Master Plan change. Leggett contends that the company's offers of $40,000 to $125,000 an acre are too low compared with the price of $100,000 to $150,000 typically offered elsewhere in the vicinity.

Faller President Bruce Teck, who is planning to build about 600 garden and midrise apartments over several years, readily conceded that there is "no question" that the property will be worth a lot more once it is rezoned.

"That's what development is all about," said Jonathan Weisgall, an attorney for Faller. "You make the jigsaw puzzle fit, and you get it rezoned, and then it has increased value. All the improvements that have to be made {for apartment construction} go into the increased value."

"All the homeowners recognize that this is not the top dollar" because the land has no water and sewer service and no improved roads, said company Vice President Charles Faller III, who has negotiated with homeowners for five years. Residents have previously been unable to sell, he said, and another developer had offered only $10,000 an acre about three years ago.

At a meeting of a County Council subcommittee in November, when the residents thought the plan would get a tentative approval, Leggett spoke against it, proposing instead that the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission consider buying the land for public use. The money for park acquisition is available from a revolving fund, Leggett said.

"The only person affected by this is the developer," Leggett said. "He is stuck with at least 50 percent of the property he purchased." But as far as the interests of the landowners are concerned, he said, "for the first time, we have a black person on the council who is trying to come up with a proposal."

"We were surprised when he spoke up against" the plan amendment, "especially being a black County Council member," said Raymond Smith, who acknowledged that the Faller Co. has reimbursed him for some travel expenses from his home in Tampa, Fla., to push the April-Stewart case forward.

Since November, Smith said, "We brought {Leggett} to the community and let the residents tell him that they were satisfied with the price. They told him that they didn't want to sell to Park and Planning . . . . "

Distrust of the bicounty park agency runs deep in the community, Smith and others said. It dates to the 1960s, when the black residents saw their land jerrymandered in county planning documents into areas that were to be set aside for possible park use, while adjoining property owned by whites was taken out of the park area and rezoned for apartments.

Planning Board chairman Christeller wrote to the council that the neighborhood's "feeling of inequity was exacerbated by the county's failure to implement the various community renewal proposals of the 1960s," including extending water, sewer and road service there.

While most of the elderly residents of April-Stewart have signed contingency contracts with Faller, several landowners are holding out for more money, particularly where there are several heirs.

James H. Williams, an assistant department manager with Sovran Bank who has lived in the community since 1954, said his family had been offered $125,000 an acre for the two-acre, two-house property. But the settlement would be split among at least seven heirs. He and his wife own about a quarter-acre, he said.

Williams said many of his neighbors need the sale to escape poverty. As for himself, "I have got to get at least $100,000 to relocate," said Williams, 58. "I can't buy a house in Montgomery County for less than $100,000."