The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors last night rebuffed three of Northern Virginia's most influential developers, who sought release from a promise to build a variety of housing types in a major development.

The developers of Burke Centre, a planned community in southwest Fairfax, went to the board seeking permission to build fewer apartments, fewer homes for low- and moderate-income families and fewer stores and offices than they had originally promised. They argued that in today's economy only single-family homes can be profitable and that most of the 4,000 families who already live at Burke Centre do not favor the kind of total community that was originally planned.

But the board voted 5 to 4 to hold the partners to many of their original commitments, handing a rare defeat to John T. (Til) Hazel, an influential zoning attorney and developer. Hazel's partners in the project are Fairfax landholder Milton V. Peterson and Giuseppe Cecchi, one of the most successful landlords in Arlington and the Washington area.

"I'm sure we'll see this back in another form," Board Chairman John F. Herrity said after the vote.

Edward M. Risse, a planner for the partnership, said the developers will go ahead with their plan -- seen by many citizens as a threat -- to build 1,000 units of subsidized apartments for low- and moderate-income families.

The county approved the construction of a new town called Burke Centre in 1976. Like Reston, Burke Centre was supposed to offer a mix of housing, a variety of stores and several employment centers as well as more typical suburban homes.

In return for promising such variety, Burke Centre's developers were permitted to put more houses on each acre than the county normally allows.

Hazel told the board yesterday that Burke Centre is already more than a subdivision. But he said the partners' proposal -- to knock out more than half the offices and stores the plan still calls for and to add 564 more single-family homes while deleting a larger number of apartments -- is "more in harmony" with the community as it has developed.

Although several community representatives wanted the partners to build more swimming pools and playing fields, most seemed satisfied to see no apartments built. "I think the community has been exceptionally generous in not trying to remove the subsidized housing" that is already in place, said Supervisor Marie Travesky, whose district includes Burke Centre.

But a majority of supervisors said the principles of residential diversity and economic development should be upheld.

"This is the ninth time they have come in for an amendment, each time for a greater ratio of single-family homes," said Supervisor Audrey Moore. "What was planned was a new town, and what we got was a subdivision."