Reston Land Corp. is seeking to exempt residents of its Reston Town Center project from Reston's design review and maintenance guidelines, which dictate everything from what color residents can paint their houses to what types of screen doors they install.

While the first residential units in Town Center are not expected to be completed until 1992, the developer has been negotiating with Reston Association officials to exempt its homeowners from the association's regulations, which govern Reston's 18,000 households. Town Center residents would be members of the Reston Association in all other aspects.

For example, Town Center residents would pay assessments -- now $238 a year -- and in turn be allowed to use the community's pools, tennis courts and other amenities and to help maintain the community's open space.

Reston Land is developing the Reston Town Center, a commercial and residential project designed to give Reston an urban "downtown" and to cap off Reston founder Robert E. Simon's dream for the community.

When completed in the next 20 years, the 460-acre project will include 5.5 million square feet of office space, two hotels, a multiscreen movie theater, shops and restaurants and up to 2,000 town houses, apartments and condominiums.

The developer is asking that its residential properties be governed by the Reston Town Center Design Review, set up in 1988 to review design of buildings in the Town Center.

Tonight, after months of closed-door discussions, Reston Land and Reston Association officials will air the issue publicly for the first time, and some board members already are sharply criticizing the plan.

"You can't have two classes of citizens," said Reston Association Director Tony Hylton. "If it's good enough for me and the rest of Reston, then it's good enough for the Town Center residents."

A 1985 agreement between Reston Land and the association states that all residential residents in Town Center would be dues-paying members of the association. Thomas D'Alesandro, executive vice president and general manager of Reston Land, said Reston Association officials at that time also reviewed proposed Town Center covenants, which called for a separate design review board for residences, and that Reston Land officials believed at the time that the association had approved the plans because "they didn't raise any objections to it." "They did not at that time say it was a problem to have our own {Design Review Board}, so we assumed it was okay to do," said D'Alesandro. The association's attorney, Richard Lubeley, declined to comment on the matter.

D'Alesandro said separate standards are necessary because the Town Center will have an urban feel and will be more densely developed than the rest of Reston.

"We think it would be inappropriate if one building in Town Center was governed by one design review board and another building in Town Center were governed by another," D'Alesandro said. "I guess it's just really a question of control of the Town Center district."

Association director Dan McGuire said he too could not support Reston Land's proposal, which was first discussed with board members in executive session after last month's meeting.

"I would think to set up a whole separate system is devastating," McGuire said. "I don't know why they would have even proposed it."

D'Alesandro said "it's hard to say" if the design guidelines would be different from the Reston Association's controls, but added, "The probability that they would be similar in ever detail is very slim."

"You can be sure that the Town Center guidelines will be sympathetic to the RA guidelines, but there could be a time . . . when one design review board could compel you to do something the other prohibited," D'Alesandro said.

D'Alesandro said he remains optimistic about tonight's discussion of the issue.

"I think we can work something out, I think we can talk things through," he said. "How you resolve the two review boards is a little mysterious; it's not clear. We have to sit down and talk about it."