A developer who cut down dozens of trees without a permit in North York should face a “very significant fine,” Mayor John Tory says.

The City of Toronto issued a stop-work order on Wednesday after learning that a number of trees had been chopped down on two lots on Bayview Ridge near York Mills Road without a permit.

Though it has not yet been determined how many of the trees were wrongly cut down, Tory told reporters on Thursday that he has been told it is in the dozens and will likely go down as the “biggest single infraction” on record.

“We can’t be serious about trees to the point that we have debates over single trees before the entire city council and then just let somebody come in here and take down dozens of tress, some of them 100 plus years old. It is not acceptable,” Tory told reporters. “If there is a prosecution here I would certainly hope that our lawyers would seek a very significant fine, perhaps up to and including the maximum.”

The lots where the trees were chopped down were being cleared to make way for a new residential development that includes townhouses and detached homes.

That project was previously approved by the Ontario Municipal Board, Tory said, however no application was made to the city to remove the trees, some of which were on public land.

“If this was a person that was sophisticated enough to hire a lawyer to go to the OMB to get particular permission to build something here than they were also probably sophisticated enough to understand there was a tree policy in place and that it had to be followed,” Tory said. “The notion to me that this person knew nothing about this to me is not really believable.”

The maximum allowable fine for improperly cutting down a tree is $100,000, meaning a fine in the millions of dollars could be laid in this case.

There is, however, little precedent for fines that significant.

“A judge will decide what is appropriate but I will be advocating for a very stiff fine if the law has been broken here,” Tory said. “You have to send a signal to this person and everyone else that you can’t treat this as a cost of doing business or some minor inconvenience. If we did that with every law this place would be in complete chaos and there would be no trees left.”