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Urban Sites of Chicago, LLC v. Crown Castle Usa

October 9, 2012

URBAN SITES OF CHICAGO, LLC.,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CROWN CASTLE USA, A FOREIGN CORPORATION, AND T-MOBILE USA, INC., A FOREIGN CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES T-MOBILE USA, INC., A FOREIGN CORPORATION,
CROSS-PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE AND THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE; CROWN CASTLE USA, A FOREIGN CORPORATION, CROSS-DEFENDANT-APPELLEE; GLOBAL SIGNAL ACQUISITIONS II, LLC,
THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 09 CH 19588 Honorable Leroy K. Martin, Jr., Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cunningham

JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Hoffman and Justice Rochford concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 This appeal arises from the March 25, 2011 order entered by the circuit court of Cook County, which entered summary judgment in favor of defendants Crown Castle USA (Crown Castle), Global Signal Acquisitions II, LLC (GSA), and T-Mobile USA, Inc. (T-Mobile), and against plaintiff Urban Sites of Chicago, LLC (Urban Sites). This appeal also arises from the circuit court's June 3, 2011 order denying Urban Sites' motion to reconsider the court's March 25, 2011 ruling. On appeal, Urban Sites argues that the circuit court erroneously granted summary judgment against it. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 Plaintiff Urban Sites owns commercial property at 7010 South Stony Island Avenue in Chicago, Illinois (the property). In October 1999, Urban Sites entered into a lease agreement with SprintCom, Inc. (Sprint),*fn1 whereby Urban Sites leased a portion of the property to Sprint for the purpose of constructing equipment and an antenna structure on the leased area (the Sprint lease). Under the terms of the Sprint lease, Sprint agreed to pay $9,600 annually in rent to Urban Sites for the leased area, with an increase of 15% in the annual rent rate after each five-year renewal term. The original site plan of the leased area agreed to under the Sprint lease consisted of an area with dimensions of 25 by 50 feet, with a separate 25-foot easement located across the rear of the property (the original site plan). Both the Sprint lease and the original site plan were signed by representatives of Urban Sites and Sprint.

¶ 4 In a letter dated July 25, 2000, Urban Sites proposed to Sprint that the dimensions of the leased area be revised to 25 by 32 feet, and forwarded a copy of the proposed amended site plan to Sprint. Although the proposed amended site plan was signed by a representative of Urban Sites, it was never signed by any representative of Sprint.

¶ 5 On August 11, 2000, Sprint responded to Urban Sites' July 25, 2000 letter by proposing to reduce the leased area to 25 by 34 feet, with an 18-foot easement located adjacent to an alley in the rear of the property (the reduced site plan). The reduced site plan was signed by representatives of both Urban Sites and Sprint. Sprint's letter stated that the reduced site plan "renders null and void the previous site description." Although the reduced site plan decreased the size of the leased area under the Sprint lease, Sprint continued to pay the same rent rate to Urban Sites as originally agreed upon by the parties.

¶ 6 On December 3, 2000, Urban Sites entered into a lease agreement with Nextel West Corp. (Nextel),*fn2 by which Urban Sites agreed to lease another area of the property to Nextel (the Nextel lease). The "description of premises" attached to the Nextel lease depicted Nextel's leased area to be immediately adjacent to Sprint's leased area, and shows Sprint's leased area to be the dimensions reflected in the reduced site plan--25 by 34 feet.

¶ 7 Subsequently, in 2001, Sprint subleased a portion of its leased area of the property to a predecessor*fn3 of T-Mobile. The sublease between Sprint and the predecessor of T-Mobile was later assigned to T-Mobile, which placed its equipment on the subleased site. Although the exact details are unclear in the record, Sprint ultimately assigned its interest in the Sprint lease to GSA and Crown Castle.*fn4

¶ 8 On March 1, 2005, Urban Sites entered into an agreement with Sprint entitled "Agreement Regarding Ground Lease," in connection with Sprint's pending assignment of its interest in the property to GSA (the 2005 agreement). The 2005 agreement stated in pertinent part the following:

"For good and valuable consideration, the receipt and sufficiency of which are hereby acknowledged, the parties hereby agree as follows:

2. Estoppel Certificate: Landlord [Urban Sites] certifies that (and Lender may rely on such representations) the following statements are true as of the date hereof:

(a) Tenant [Sprint] is the current tenant under the [Sprint lease] (a full copy of which, including all amendments thereto, is annexed as Exhibit A), and the [Sprint lease] is in full force and effect and contains the entire agreement between [Urban Sites] and [Sprint] with respect to the [p]roperty.

(b) No default exists under the [Sprint lease] on the part of [Sprint], and, to [Urban Sites'] knowledge, no event or condition has occurred or exists which *** would constitute a default by [Sprint] under the [Sprint lease].

6. Miscellaneous

(a) If this [a]greement is inconsistent with the [Sprint lease], this [a]greement shall control.

(b) This [a]greement shall be binding upon [Urban Sites] and its successors and shall benefit each of [l]ender and [s]ubtenant and their respective successors and assigns.

(c) This [a]greement may not be amended or modified except by a written agreement executed by [Urban Sites], any [l]ender and [s]ubtenant. ***" (Emphases in original.)

Included as Exhibit A to the 2005 agreement was a copy of the Sprint lease along with two copies of the original site plan which depicted Sprint's leased area as 25 by 50 feet in size. Jerald Much (Much), as manager of Urban Sites, executed the 2005 agreement on behalf of Urban Sites and initialed each page of the 2005 agreement, including the attached copies of the original site plan.

ΒΆ 9 On April 16, 2009, Urban Sites sent a "Demand for Possession" letter to T-Mobile, stating that it had come to Urban Sites' attention that, since March 2004, T-Mobile had erected a "communications facility" on part of the property that Crown Castle had not leased from Urban Sites. The letter also stated that the area of the property that T-Mobile had wrongfully occupied was valued at $1,500 per month, and that T-Mobile owed Urban Sites $93,000 to date. In a letter dated May 29, 2009, T-Mobile responded that it had a right to possess the subleased premises at issue because the subleased premises were located entirely within the 25 by 50-foot area of the Sprint lease. ...


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