SOUTH BURLINGTON – In a move that threatens to drive a deep wedge between neighboring Vermont cities, South Burlington City Council voted to sue Burlington for an undisclosed amount due to a name. Burlington, spurred on by developers, has re-branded the section of the city from Maple Street to Home Avenue and west of Route 7 as “”SoBu” (pronounced “So-boo”). South Burlington’s City Council members are not the only ones disturbed by the re-branding.
“This is blatant payback,” says Pine Street resident Kurt Franklin. “This is so city hall can get the New Northenders off their back for the traffic pattern fiasco on North Avenue.” Residents of the New North End have been up in arms about lane changes now permanently in place in their neighborhood.
An anonymous source from the Mayor’s office defends the re-branding of Burlington’s south end. “Everyone knows that part of the city is growing in its ‘cool factor’,” says the source. “And you can’t expect money to pour in to a place known as ‘Pine Street’.” According to minutes from the July 17 City Council meeting, both the mayor and Burlington council agreed that “we need something catchy to bring definition to the gentrification that we want to see for the south end.” The minutes state other names were considered, including “Southy,” “SoPine” and “SoBuds.” In the end, “SoBu” was chosen for its upscale appeal.
Burlington is not the only city caught up in re-naming neighborhood tensions. What separates this situation from others is the combination of both intra and inter-city tensions. One South Burlington resident accused the South Burlington City Council of filing the lawsuit as a way to draw attention away from the real issue – the on-going Rebel debate. “This is nothing but a distraction. That’s what is really going on here,” said Winona, asking that we use only her first name.
But another South Burlington resident with ties to their council member told The Winooski that their city had been on the brink of choosing “SoBu” for South Burlington’s own up-coming re-branding campaign when Burlington made their announcement. The initial hearing is scheduled for some time just before the December Holiday Season.