Voters who live in the southeastern third of Takoma Park that is in Prince George's County took the first step Tuesday toward having their part of the small city annexed into Montgomery County.

They voted 970 to 186, or 83 percent, in favor of holding a special referendum that would let them decide whether to unify the city in Montgomery County.

Results of the advisory referendum will be given to the Montgomery and Prince George's legislative delegations who, if they approve the idea, could ask the General Assembly to set up an official referendum for 1984.

"I've always said if it wasn't approved by more than 70 percent, I'd drop the whole thing," said Mayor Sammie A. Abbott, who has made unification one of his major causes.

Abbott predicted that results of an official referendum on joining Montgomery would parallel the support shown in this week's straw vote.

However, State Sen. Arthur Dorman (D-Prince George's) interpreted the vote as meaning that residents believe they -- rather than the legislature -- should decide in which jurisdiction their section should be.

Dorman said the move would affect property taxes, schooling and county services, and Takoma Park's peculiarities, such as how its prohibition on liquor on the Montgomery side would effect two liquor stores operating in the Prince George's section.

He said Prince George's would lose about $1.5 million in property taxes annually, but part of the loss would be offset by the transfer of 394 students to the Montgomery school system.

City officials now have to deal with two county governments in matters ranging from zoning to funding; garbage must be separated for dumping in the proper county, and residents near the border often find themselves in a bureacratic netherworld when trying to get county services.

"Let's face it," said Patrick Donnelly, a Prince George's resident by a margin of several feet who would like to join Montgomery. "Sitting on the border, we get starved by both sides."

A bill that would have incorporated the Prince George's side into Montgomery was defeated in the Prince George's delegation earlier this year.