THERE MAY BE NO Berlin Wall running through the city of Takoma Park, Md., but the residents are politically divided by a boundary line that many now feel should be shifted--part of the city (about two-thirds) is in Montgomery County and part in Prince George's. Under a proposal introduced by state legislators from both counties and about to come up before the Montgomery delegation to Annapolis, residents of the Prince George's portion would be permitted to vote in a binding referendum on whether they would like to become Montgomery residents. That's a fair question--and the voters should have a crack at it.

In a way they already have: in an unusual "straw vote," conducted at polling places in November, residents of the Prince George's section voted 970 to 186 for a chance to vote in a referendum. Whether they decide ultimately to unify with the rest of the city as part of Montgomery is another question. But divided, they fall into these difficulties:

They have to appeal to two county governments on city/county-related issues; they have to coordinate with different court systems; they have dual zoning codes; separate garbage; schools in two systems; and different property tax rates. Though some claim that tax differences are not significant enough to matter if the city were unified, obviously time and new county actions could change that in either direction.

These are all questions for the residents of both "sides" of the city to consider carefully before they take any leap. But enough of them are seeking the opportunity to get the city's act together in a single county that a referendum seems an appropriate course.