A proposal to get Old Stage Road designated a Rustic Road has become heated, with the Rutland Town Board considering concerns of tourism, local history and safety.
Sue Williams, a Rutland resident, told the board Tuesday, Jan. 5, she has been researching since June to see whether Old Stage Road would qualify as a Rustic Road classification because it would draw more tourism to the town from hikers and bicyclists. She presented a petition with 49 town residents signing in favor of the designation.
The “Rustic Road” designation was created more than 40 years ago by the state Department of Transportation to provide bicyclists, hikers and motorcyclists an opportunity to travel the state’s scenic countryside.
Town Chair Peter Loughrin said he wants more input on the issue and it’s not urgent. He added that the town had filed a Rustic Road application for the road in 2006 and it was rejected because it was not rustic enough.
“Why do we want more people, cars, traffic, bicyclists and focus on our roads?” Loughrin asked.
Sup. Deana Zentner said she supports the effort.
“I want people to come see the natural and historic beauty of Rutland,” Zentner said. “It’s a matter of pride to showcase the greatness of Rutland.”
Sup. Dave Grueneberg said the town could have a public hearing on the issue, and Loughrin later said the item would be up for discussion and possible vote again in February.
The Town Board had discussed the issue in December and asked Williams to bring back additional research on speed limits, whether a $2,000 speed study is required and if the designation would limit local property development.
Williams reported there would be no cost to the town for the application, town roads would get the same state aid as others in the same jurisdiction and there would be no changes in building restrictions. No vehicles would be prohibited from using the road, and Rutland would have local control, she said.
“If people think we are doing this to prevent dump trucks from driving on it, that will not be the case,” she said.
Rutland is home to five of Dane County’s 95 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Cerano W. Graves house on Old Stage Road. The home is a Greek-revival style house with limestone walls built in 1845.
Two other buildings designed by Graves – who went on to become a state legislator – are on the national register. Those are the Lockwood Barn on Old Stage Road and the Rutland United Brethren in Christ Meeting House and Cemetery on U.S. Hwy. 14.
Another home designed by Graves on the National List of Historic Places in the town is the Samuel Hunt House on Center Road. The home is an Italianate-style house with walls of coursed sandstone.
Zentner made a motion to place the issue on the February agenda for a vote, but Loughrin did not recognize her motion, citing improper procedures. Zentner is challenging Loughrin for the town chair position this spring.
“I’m not opposed to the essence of the motion,” Loughrin said. “I don’t feel the motion is valid. I don’t feel a motion to force an agenda item is consistent with the law where the chairman creates the agenda.”
Loughrin said under item 7 on the agenda, the town has a designated spot to request future agenda items, and he later said the issue would be on the agenda in February.