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Lamar Advantage G.P. Co., L.L.C. v. Addison Park District

December 13, 2004

LAMAR ADVANTAGE G.P. COMPANY, L.L.C., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
ADDISON PARK DISTRICT AND THE VILLAGE OF ADDISON, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 02-CH-843. Honorable Patrick J. Leston, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Gilleran Johnson

PUBLISHED

In 1987, the plaintiff, Lamar Advantage G.P. Company, L.L.C., entered into a 15-year lease agreement for the purposes of erecting and maintaining a billboard on property located in Addison. In October 1998, the defendant Addison Park District (the District) acquired the property, subject to the lease, from the lessor. In July 1999, the District and the defendant the Village of Addison (the Village) entered into an agreement that annexed the property into the Village. The annexation agreement indicated that the District would terminate the plaintiff's billboard lease at the end of its term. The lease terminated on May 18, 2002, and was not renewed. On July 3, 2002, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint against the District and the Village, arguing that it had a valid property interest in the expectation of the renewal of its lease and that the non-renewal of the lease resulted in the taking of its property without payment of just compensation. The District and the Village filed motions to dismiss the plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to section 2--615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (the Code) (735 ILCS 5/2--615 (West 2002)). On September 30, 2003, the circuit court of Du Page County dismissed the plaintiff's complaint with prejudice. The plaintiff appeals from this order. We affirm.

The plaintiff's complaint contained the following allegations. The plaintiff is in the business of maintaining outdoor advertising signs and leasing or donating space to commercial and noncommercial advertisers. The District is an Illinois special district located in Du Page County. The Village is an Illinois municipal corporation, also located in Du Page County.

In 1986, the plaintiff's predecessor entered into a 15-year lease agreement for the purpose of erecting and maintaining a billboard on what was then known as the "Dog N Suds" property (the property). At the time the lease was executed, the property was located in unincorporated Du Page County, outside the boundaries of the Village. The terms of the lease provided that the lease would remain in full force and effect for 15 years after the completion date of the billboard. The billboard was completed on May 18, 1987. The lease further provided that the term of the lease was to automatically renew for subsequent 15-year periods, unless either the lessor or the lessee notified the other in writing within 60 days prior to the expiration of any such period that it was terminating the lease. On September 29, 1998, the District acquired the property from the lessor, subject to the plaintiff's existing billboard lease. The initial term of the lease was due to expire on May 18, 2002.

After the District acquired the property, the District and the plaintiff entered into extensive negotiations to extend the lease for a second term. As part of those negotiations, the plaintiff alleged that it made several proposals to the District to extend the lease under terms more favorable to the District. However, the plaintiff alleged that the District rejected each of its proposals because the Village planned to annex the District's property and condition the annexation on the removal of the plaintiff's billboard. On October 17, 1998, the District informed the plaintiff that although it was interested in renewing the lease, the Village was demanding that the billboard be removed.

On December 16, 1998, the Village advised the District that it was interested in annexing the property. The Village manager, Joseph Block, sent a letter to the District, stating:

"[T]he Village is very interested in annexation of the [property] into the Village of Addison. First and foremost we would like to see all Park District property within the corporate limits of the Village. In this case, we are very interested to see the billboard removed at the end of its current four year lease."

On January 25, 1999, the District sent a letter to the plaintiff. The letter indicated that the District was interested in renewing the lease and planned to ask the Village to reconsider its demand that the billboard be removed.

On June 1, 1999, the District petitioned the Village to annex the property. On July 19, 1999, the Village and the District entered into an agreement to annex the property. Paragraph four of the agreement expressly stated that the District had agreed to remove the existing billboard upon the expiration of the current lease term. On July 20, 1999, the Village approved the agreement through the passage of ordinance No. 0--99--80. On August 2, 1999, the Village passed ordinance No. 0--99--86 annexing the property into the Village. The Village also passed ordinance No. 0--99--87 rezoning the property to the residential, R--1 zoning district, with a special use for a golf course, a driving range, and related public recreational uses.

On April 20, 2001, more than one year before the lease was to expire, the District informed the plaintiff, in writing, that it was providing formal notification pursuant to the lease agreement that the lease would not be renewed upon the expiration of its term. On January 2, 2002, the District again gave the plaintiff formal written notice of the lease termination, and requested that the plaintiff advise the District as to when the billboard would be removed.

On May 8, 2002, the District advised the plaintiff that if the billboard was not removed on or before May 18, 2002, the lease expiration date, the District would remove the billboard and charge the plaintiff for the removal costs. The plaintiff refused to confirm that it would remove the sign, and instead informed the District that it was considering taking immediate and emergency action to protect its rights and prevent the demolition of the billboard. Thereafter, the District approved a contract for removal of the billboard.

On May 17, 2002, the plaintiff filed a verified complaint for injunctive, declaratory, and monetary relief against the District, seeking to enjoin the District from removing the billboard without the payment of just compensation. On May 23, 2002, the plaintiff filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction. The trial court denied the motion. On or about June 4, 2002, the plaintiff removed the billboard at its own expense. The plaintiff was subsequently granted leave to file an amended complaint joining the Village.

In its amended complaint, the plaintiff alleged seven counts. In count I, the plaintiff alleged a cause of action for inverse condemnation under the Illinois Eminent Domain Act (735 ILCS 5/7--101 (West 2002)). The plaintiff claimed that Village ordinance No. 0--99--80 required the removal of the billboard and violated the Eminent Domain Act because private property cannot be taken without payment of just compensation. In counts II through V, the plaintiff alleged violations of its due process and equal protection rights under the United States Constitution (U.S. Const., amends. V, XIV) and the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, ยงยง2, 15). The ...


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