The Saco Schools Department has been asked to vacate the building at 5 Willey Road that it intended to house its Pre-K program. LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

SACO — The city of Saco has directed the School Department to vacate 5 Willey Road, stating that its Pre-K program is not a valid use for the location, while landlord Cheryl Carrier says she disagrees with the city.

With the expansion of its Pre-K program, the Saco School Department needs more classroom space this fall, and the School Board authorized the superintendent to sign a 10-year lease with Toddle Inn to use a the former daycare facility at 5 Willey Road in the city’s Spring Hill business park for the school’s Pre-K program. The School Department can direct the superintendent to sign a lease without approval from the Saco City Council or city administrator.

The 10-year lease began July 1. Under the terms of the lease, the Saco Schools Department was required to pay a $24,000 security deposit. Monthly rent begins at $24,000 a month, with a 2 percent increase each year of the 10-year period. The lease is a triple net lease, meaning that the lessee must pay real estate taxes, building insurance and maintenance, in addition to rent and utilities.

The Toddle Inn property, including both building and land, is assessed at $770,500, according to online city records.

While the building, which is designed to house programming for young children, may at first appear to be the perfect location for a Pre-K program, city officials say that a public school is not an allowable use for the business park.

According to Saco City Administrator Kevin Sutherland, business park covenants prevent both ownership and use of public schools in the park.


Because a public school is not allowed in the business park, the city could not grant the Schools Department a certificate of occupancy for the location, said Sutherland.

Without a certificate of occupancy, which assures the building is in compliance with local building codes, the school would likely not be able to get the building insured, he said.

The city sent Carrier, owner of the Toddle Inn group of daycare centers, a letter on June 19, giving her 30 days to “work out an agreement with the Saco schools to terminate their lease, and to use the premises going forward for any permitted use.”

With no response from Carriier, the city sent a letter to the School Board on July 19, directing the School Department to vacate the building by July 29 and find an alternative location for the Pre-K program.

The Saco School Board authorized Superintendent Dominic DePatsy to obtain an alternative site for Pre-K after a closed door executive session on Tuesday.

Though school officials have not announced where Pre-K will be held, the city administrator and city staff have researched alternatives, and Sutherland said one option would include temporarily using classroom space in Biddeford.


Toddle Inn responded to media inquiries Monday night through their lawyer, Timothy Bryant of Preti Flaherty, saying that it disagrees with the city and asserts that the lease was “validly signed.”

“Toddle Inn respectfully disagrees with the ever changing assertions from the Saco City Council in recent communications related to the property at 5 Wiley Road. Toddle Inn plans to continue to pay its taxes to the City of Saco as it has done for more than a decade; honor its obligations under the validly signed lease agreement with the Saco School Department; and do its best to help the children and families in the City of Saco enjoy the educational opportunities associated with the development of a Pre-K program,” said Bryant in the email.

Bryant did not respond to a query asking if the Saco School Department would have any financial obligation if it broke its lease with Toddle Inn.

Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be reached at 780-9015 or by email at

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