Montgomery County homeowner John Vanderveen and other residents in his Bethesda neighborhood want something done about their taxes: They want them raised.

It's an unusual request in a county that recently was the scene of a fierce taxpayers revolt.

But Vanderveen is one of 60 property owners who are desperate for sound barriers to shield them from the roar of nearby traffic and who would actually pick up part of the construction tab: about $600,000. "It's innovative and I would think welcome to get citizens to fend for themselves with only a minimal amount of help from the county," said Vanderveen, an unofficial spokesman for the group who himself would pay more than $11,000 in estimated taxes during the next 20 years.

Even though the county isn't being asked to pay a penny toward the project, some county officials question whether it is fair that one neighborhood can get an amenity that other neighborhoods can't afford. In this case, three neighborhoods that border the Capital Beltway between Bradley Boulevard and the American Legion Bridge want the county to declare them a special taxing district. The taxes raised would be added to $2.1 million the state has agreed to contribute for the sound barriers.

The proposal will be the subject of a hearing before the County Council today.

Each neighborhood -- the subdivisions of Carderock Spring, Burningtree Estates Subdivision and Arrowood -- contains a mix of houses built before and after the Beltway.

Vanderveen's contemporary rambler, for instance, was built after an adjacent section of the Beltway opened in 1964. He moved there with his family 15 years ago, and his house is about 300 feet from the Beltway.

"There is no doubt we knew the Beltway was there. We knew where and what we were buying," Vanderveen said. But, he said, Beltway conditions are far different today -- there is more traffic and more noise -- than when he bought his house. A widening of the road claimed several trees that served as buffers.

He remembers that his family used to sit and entertain outside. The dining room of his house once was an outside deck. But then it was rendered unusable by the din of traffic.

The move to get the sound barriers began with the state's decision to widen the Beltway. Residents concerned about the additional noise that would result formed Citizens Against Beltway Noise. The group, whose members included high-powered lawyers willing to provide free legal service, met with state officials and also threatened to go to court.

However, Vanderveen said that the group really didn't want to stop construction. "We just wanted environmental safeguards," he said.

According to Vanderveen, state officials promised to build sound barriers but then reversed the decision when new criteria were issued on which neighborhoods qualified for the state-financed sound barriers. Generally, the state considers the level of noise and the number of homes affected and in some cases whether they were built before the Beltway's opening.

Faced with the prospect of a citizen lawsuit that could have interfered with the Beltway widening, state officials made an offer: They would contribute $40,000 per household -- $2.1 million -- to build the sound barriers. That left a gap of $604,000.

Montgomery County officials, saying the issue was between residents and state officials, didn't want to get involved.

Now the residents are asking the county to borrow the money on their behalf and to create a special tax district in which homeowners would pay more in taxes during a 20-year period to pay off the loan. The amount of increased taxes varies depending on the taxable assessment of each property, and county estimates show that some homeowners could pay as much as $1,500 in additional property taxes in the first year.

"There are some very well-heeled people out here, and that {amount of money} is probably not that meaningful to them. But I don't happen to be one of them," said Audrey Martino, whose property is down the street from Vanderveen's.

Martino said she recently became aware of the proposal and she questions the value of the project, as well as Vanderveen's claim that virtually all the residents want the walls.

"This seems like the work of a vocal few," she said. Martino said her biggest concern about the proposal is whether the sound barriers will actually do any good. "I think they might be grasping at straws," she said.

Vanderveen, a nutritionist for the federal government, said the wall -- a mile long and 20 feet high -- would make a difference that would allow residents to venture outside again.

County officials, who are supporting the residents' request, say there is some precedent for the special taxes, and they point to road and storm drainage projects where the cost is assessed to adjoining property owners who directly benefit.

However, County Council member Michael L. Subin (D-At Large) said, "What happens to another neighborhood that needs this kind of protection but they can't afford it? . . . There is a serious public policy issue here and the question is how do you determine equity."

Subin said he thinks these communities deserve the sound barriers because it was government action -- Beltway widening -- that changed their lifestyles. "But I wonder what kind of precedent we are setting," he said.