The city of Atlanta has fined Buckhead homeowner Evan Hardin $52,700 for removing dozens of trees from his property.

But Hardin, who agrees that some trees appear to have been removed, says he didn’t know anything about it.

Hardin showed Channel 2’s Jeff Dore a certified letter he received from the city stating that it was fining him.

Hardin told Dore that he bought the steep, densely wooded piece of property in the shadow of Georgia 400 seven or eight years ago. Someday, he said, he might put in a driveway and build on it.

Other than making a treacherous climb up the slope from the road, the only way to access the site is through a new-house construction site next door. Hardin believes that a tree thief drove up, harvested the trees for lumber and fled, leaving him a crime victim.

The city’s Tree Conservation Commission put Dore in touch with certified arborist David Tachon, who determined that Hardin’s property was missing trees, and calculated the number of missing trees from a survey done for the builders of the home under construction next door.

Tachon told Channel 2 that the city ordinance does not require the city to prove that the property owner cut down the trees to fine that owner. In fact, he speculated that the contractor who cleared trees for the project next door simply went too far with cutting trees, strayed onto Hardin’s property and mistakenly took trees there.

Nevertheless, he said, the ordinance says Hardin has to pay the fine and can sue the responsible party to recover the fine from them.

Hardin said he doesn’t know who took the trees, can’t prove who took the trees and so can’t sue to recover the losses from whomever took the trees. He is scheduled for a hearing with the city of Atlanta Tree Conservation Commission on June 15 at 6:30 p.m. in committee room 2 at Atlanta City Hall.