The trappings of progress have come to rural Fauquier County, where a battle over land planning has erupted into a fiery political question.

Four hundred county residents turned out for a hearing last week on whether the County Board of Supervisors should strip the county's planning commission of its advisory powers over subdivision plot approval.

The planning commission is an appointed body with no direct power, but its hearings on development issues have given county residents a forum in which to express their views.

The battle is being waged between those who prefer slow growth in the county and those who prefer "progress."

In recent skirmishes, the board of supervisors has lined up 3 to 2 in favor of "progress;" and the planning commission, 3 to 2 for slow growth.

According to one supervisor, the board recently met privately to consider removing one member of the planning commission for malfeasance, but voted instead to schedule last week's meeting.

At the hearing, 42 residents spoke against the proposal and six spoke in favor.

One county resident said the action would have "significantly denied me the right to have my say in local government, to personally appear before the commission and to give my yea or nay, which in turn could help direct the proper use of land in this county."

Although the immediate question is about the subdivision plot approval, the central issue is the county's comprehensive plan, which is designed to determine the density of the county's future growth. The planning commission worked for two years on a revision of the master plan, as required by state law, and came up with provisions that would have held down growth and that the commission felt would retain the character of the county.

But on what slow-growth advocates are calling "Black Saturday," in October 1977, the supervisors stripped the slow-growth provisions from the proposals.

Now the battle has narrowed to the proposed zoning ordinance, an operating manual of laws that are meant to implement the comprehensive plan.

The working ordinances have been written by the commission but have yet to be acted on by the supervisors.

Some are saying that the vote on this will be delayed until after the elections.

As Supervisor Stephenson McIlvaine, a slow-growth advocate, said of the planning commission:

"If we overturn a decision of theirs, it can become an issue. In that sense, they have direct power."