City wants rooftop owners' lawsuit over Wrigley Field renovations to be heard in federal court

By Jonathan Bilyk | Sep 22, 2014

The owners of the rooftops overlooking Wrigley Field may need to continue their legal fight over the city’s approval of a Jumbotron in the Friendly Confines’ bleachers and other renovations sought by the Chicago Cubs in federal court.

Earlier this month, the City of Chicago and its Commission on Chicago Landmarks collectively, along with its individual members, filed a notice to remove the rooftops’ owners suit from Cook County Circuit Court to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

They were sued in August in state court by a dozen rooftop ownership companies, including: Right Field Properties LLC; Right Field Rooftops LLC; Rooftop Acquisition LLC; 3633 Rooftop Management LLC; Standard Bank and Trust Company Trust 21101 and 21100; Sheffield-Waveland Rooftop Inc.; GWR Properties LLC; Wrigley Rooftops I LLC; Wrigley Rooftops III LLC; Wrigley Rooftops IV LLC; Annex Club LLC; and 3701 N. Kenmore LLC.

With the exception of 3701 N. Kenmore, the groups who brought the suit own properties in the 3600 block of North Sheffield Avenue or the 1000 block of West Waveland Avenue, on which they operate rooftop establishments overlooking Wrigley Field.

Those rooftop owners have been embroiled in a fight with the Cubs for months over the fate of renovations at the century-old Wrigley Field.

The Cubs have publicly insisted the renovations are essential to the future viability of both the ballclub and Wrigley Field. The rooftop owners, however, have stated the proposed renovations, which include the installation of a large video scoreboard, would block the views from their rooftops, violating a 2004 agreement between the club and the rooftop owners, as well as the city’s landmarks ordinance, and effectively put them out of business.

In July, the city’s Landmarks Commission signed off on the Cubs’ video scoreboard plans, prompting the rooftop owners to sue the city.

In that complaint, which was filed in August, the rooftops owners asked the Cook County Circuit Court to overturn the commission’s decision and prevent the Cubs from proceeding with the renovations.

The suit also includes counts alleging Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other city officials negotiated with Cubs’ owners behind closed doors, and then rushed the renovations through the Landmarks Commission, violating the rooftops owners’ constitutional rights to due process and equal protection in the process.

Since those elements of the suit are questions of federal law and constitutionality, the city’s attorneys assert the case should be argued in federal court, rather than state court.

The city is being represented by Andrew W. Worseck and David M. Baron of the city's Law Department. The rooftop owners are represented by attorneys Thomas S. Moore and Jane F. Anderson of Anderson & Moore P.C. in Chicago.

Court records from today show that U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve granted the city defendants' unopposed motion for more time to file an answer to the suit or otherwise plead and gave them until Oct. 24 to do so.

She also set an Oct. 29 status hearing in the matter.

Just because the city defendants removed the matter to federal court does not necessarily mean the suit will stay there. The rooftop owners could ask for it to be transferred back to state court.

The legal action against the city is the latest court fight waged by the rooftop owners.

Earlier this year, the rooftop owners also filed a defamation suit  against sports consultant Marc Ganis, who was quoted in local press reports describing the rooftop owners as “carpetbaggers” whose business model left them “stealing (Cubs baseball at Wrigley Field) the product paid for by others for their own profit.”

Cook County Circuit Judge William Gomolinski dismissed that suit in June, declaring Ganis’ speech was constitutionally protected and did not defame the rooftop owners or hurt their business.

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Chicago Cubs Baseball Club, Inc. City of Chicago

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