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Owner fined for clearing own trees

Irondequoit, N.Y.-- Chopping down trees and clearing the debris is not new for Al Gilbert.

"We always just cut them down," said the 88-year-old businessman.

In early December he began having roughly 200 trees, mostly Cottonwood, cleared from a one acre piece of land that rests yards from Voyager Marina and underneath the O'Rourke Bridge in Irondequoit.

"Mr. Gilbert has said he did not know that it was an E.P.O.D.," said Ray McDonald, a member of the Planning Board. "An environmentally protected overlay district--which is on his taxes."

Gilbert contends he did not know prior to being told by town leaders.

"I thought it was an i-pod first, I said, no that has something to do with telephone's first, not trees," said Gilbert.

Town Development Director Nicholas Weatherbee said another mistake Gilbert made was not getting town approval before cutting down the trees. With a simple permit, Weatherbee said, the trees could have been cut without violating town code.

Gilbert said had he known, he would not have cut trees from his own property.

The reason for doing so, however, is twofold.

First, he's been waiting for years to get it developed for housing, second, it was a mess, clearing the trees is just part of what helped him clear it out, he said.

"This one gully, there were refrigerators in there," Gilbert said, referencing a portion of the property.

Gilbert said he has made efforts to amend some of the problems created by leveling the trees, further remediation is expected to help prevent erosion and other environmental concerns, said McDonald.

"I don't believe there ever can be a remedy when you remove trees the age that they were and devastate the property," said McDonald.

As a first time offender, Gilbert faces a $350 fine for removing the trees, Weatherbee said.

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Washington Times