The embattled developer of a plan to transform downtown Silver Spring with a regional shopping mall will have another year to complete his plans because of a decision this week by the Maryland Court of Appeals.

However, developer Lloyd Moore's legal victory may be overshadowed by dramatic changes in Montgomery County's political and economic landscape.

The appeals court, in a unanimous decision handed down Monday in Annapolis, ruled that Montgomery County had acted properly in 1988 when it approved Moore's plans for a $250 million shopping, office and hotel complex. The decision overturns the 1989 ruling by Circuit Court Judge Peter J. Messitte who, siding with residents opposed to the project, found that the planning board had acted improperly in approving Moore's plans.

The ruling means that Moore does not have to meet this month's deadline of finding two retail anchors for his project. "It means that Moore has another year effective yesterday {Monday}," Planning Board Chairman Gus Bauman said.

Bauman noted, though, that Moore faces more serious hurdles than a time deadline.

"Moore wasn't able to put this project together in the heyday of the eighties . . . and with the county government firmly behind him," Bauman said. The economy is now in a recession, with banks in financial straits and and retail stores on the rocks. Moreover, County Executive Neal Potter does not share the zeal of his predecssor, Sidney Kramer, for the project, and county cooperation is key to the project's success.

For example, to build his project, Moore must have permission from the county to build a bridge that would span Georgia Avenue and he needs a parcel of land owned by the county.

"This government would be very unlikely to {want} to strike a deal as badly as Sidney Kramer did," said Charles Wolff, president of the Silver Spring-Takoma Traffic Coalition, which first brought suit against the project.

Potter, who opposed Moore's plans while on the County Council, was unaware of the court action, but he said something needs to be done because downtown is detriorating.

Residents and officials said they hoped Moore would not wait another year before deciding the next step.

"I'm tired. I think a lot of people are tired," Bauman said of the four-year battle over developing Silver Spring.

Bauman said Moore has been given plenty of time to make his project viable and that if he is unable to attract the second department store -- Moore says Macy's already is interested in the project -- he should look at other options for the eight acres he controls in the heart of Silver Spring.

Moore could not be reached for comment yesterday. In an interview on Monday, Moore said that he had nothing new to report and that he was still working to land the second department store.

"He's still optimistic," county Housing and Community Development Director Richard Ferrara said of Moore, "but it looks bleak.

In the past, Moore has discussed a different redevelopment plan that would be smaller in scale and in recent weeks has sought out civic activists to discuss that alternative. Residents said the original project was too big and would cause too much traffic.Staff writer Pat Kraft contributed to this report.