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Chopping Down Own Trees Nets L.I. Man $22,500 In Village Fines

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - A Long Island man is being fined more than $20,000 for chopping down trees in his own yard.

He says the trees were a danger to his family and property, but officials in his village disagree saying he didn't go through proper channels and now he has to pay up, reports CBS2's Elise Finch.

Pericles Linardos has called his Nassau County wooded property in the Village of Muttontown home since he was 12 years old.

He says Superstorm Sandy cracked and split dozens of trees on his property, included several in his front yard that have since been replaced by bushes.

One tree was toppled and damaged six others on its way down, so two months after it happened, he had all seven of them removed.

Linardos says the tree experts he consulted said it was necessary to make his property safer.

That's when the conflict began, as did the fines.

Muttontown Village Attorney Steven Leventhal says cutting down a tree in this northshore community is like polluting beaches on the South Shore.

The village code regulates the removal of trees with a diameter of 7 inches or more, and a permit is required for removal unless it's an emergency.

"We got a phone call," said Leventhal. "Our arborist went out saw the trees already down. He said they were healthy."

The law calls for a removal fine of $250 per tree-inch measured across the diameter.

In this case that adds up to $22,500, and if Linardos doesn't pay, he faces 15 days in jail.

The two sides have been battling this out in court for the past five years.

The village attorney says Linardos isn't the only homeowner to violate the tree removal law and be charged hefty fines - he's just the only one who refuses to pay.

Linardos is adamant he'd rather go to jail than pay unfair fines.

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