Simone Boutet

A former longtime attorney for the village of Oak Park has announced she will run for village trustee in the upcoming April 2017 election.

Simone Boutet served as assistant village attorney for 14 years, two years as acting village attorney, before resigning from the position in 2015.

Boutet said as a trustee she would focus on quality-of-life issues for Oak Park residents, maintaining the character of the community – which she says is hurting from substandard architecture and an increased focus on massive buildings that don’t fit in with the village’s architectural heritage – and bringing greater government transparency.

“I believe in progress, but I don’t want to see Oak Park turn into Lincoln Park,” she said. “I don’t worship at the altar of high-rises.”

“This is a museum of a community, and we should continue that rather than putting up sterile or sometimes ugly development,” she added.

Case in point is the Oak Park Place apartment building near the corner of Lake and Harlem, she said. The building – commonly referred to as the Whiteco building, after the developer who built the structure in 2008 – has been roundly criticized for being an ugly structure that does not fit in with the historic architecture of the village.

She said before projects like Whiteco receive tax incentives from the village’s various tax increment finance (TIF) districts, they should know whether they are going to bring in the future tax revenue promised by developers.

“We should test the TIF pro formas to see if the incentives pay the community back as promised,” she said in an email.

The village should perform a comprehensive review of TIF incentives awarded to companies, she said.

“I think the community is very interested in seeing that information,” Boutet said.

Boutet said the village should better utilize the brainpower it has at its disposal through its highly educated residents.

The village’s recent release of a request for proposals from developers for the village-owned parking lot at the corner of Madison Street and Oak Park Avenue, for instance, was never sent to the village’s Plan Commission for review, she said.

“One of the coolest things about living here is all the smart people here, and we should be taking advantage of their input; to me that’s the essence of democracy,” she said.

She said the village often is not transparent in its decision-making, which has caused them to disengage from the process.

Boutet said the village has never explained why the use of TIF funds was necessary for the $3 million environmental cleanup of the site of the Elevate Oak Park development being built near the corner of Lake and Harlem.

“People like me knew there were underground storage tanks [at the site],” she said. “Why was it a surprise and why was it not part of the negotiations [with the developer] from the very beginning? Why was it suddenly a surprise? It’s our property.”

She said the village also has not done enough to engage residents on the ongoing update of its zoning code, which governs height, density, parking requirements and other aspects of development in Oak Park.

“When the village did the comprehensive plan, we filled up the high school cafeteria with citizens and interested parties by actively reaching out to the community, one individual at a time, until we had just about everyone who is known to be involved,” Boutet said in an email. “The zoning code is where the rubber hits the road. You don’t see the same outreach to the community with the zoning code. You don’t see yard signs or surveys as are used for the parking or sign code. You don’t see it on the village’s home page where items of lesser or more temporary significance are noted.”

Boutet said she would seek the endorsement of the Village Manager Association but her candidacy did not rely on the group’s support.

* This article was updated to clarify an inaccurate statement concerning Boutet’s position on TIF incentives. 


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