Since May, Farley McDonough has kept a complaint basket near the front of her Adam's Mountain Café.
It has proven popular, though no one's grumbling about the Orange Almond French Toast. This basket gets gripes about Manitou Springs' new parking kiosks.
Manitou's city councilors had the kiosks installed downtown in May, in hopes that they would ease overcrowding and earn cash for future parking solutions. But as many as 50 Adam's patrons a week have used the basket to express their deep dislike for the new system.
Not a fan of the kiosks herself, McDonough has delivered those complaints to the town offices weekly, hoping they'll be reviewed by the Parking Authority Board. She says she thinks the kiosks have hurt businesses — particularly ones that encourage people to hang out and, say, enjoy a meal.
"I'm looking for someone to enjoy the experience of Manitou," she says, "and that doesn't work with parking meters."
McDonough says the breakfast crowd complains the most, because parking tends to be plentiful early, and it seems punitive to have to pay. Locals are another frustrated demographic.
"I mean, this is their town," she says. "So they see it as sort of a slap in the face that they're being charged to visit their own downtown."
Leslie Lewis, executive director of iManitou (Manitou's Chamber of Commerce, Visitors Bureau, and Office of Economic Development), says she's heard similar gripes from other business owners. But she says those who count on high turnover, such as gift- shop operators, are often pleased with the kiosks because they move people in and out of town more quickly. "It's very much a mixed review," she says.
Tim Haas, owner of Manitou Outpost, Mountain High Sportswear, Five, and Garden of the Gods Trading Post, says he would have liked more free parking around the holiday season. But he loved the kiosks in the summer, explaining that they "helped manage a finite amount of [parking-space] inventory."
Matt Carpenter, Manitou's outgoing mayor pro tem and the owner of Colorado Custard Company, is a big supporter of the kiosks. From the business side, Carpenter says, he's noticed that fewer employees of local businesses park downtown now, which opens up more spaces for paying customers. And he notes that before last summer's floods, business was booming in Manitou.
"If you look at the sales tax returns through the end of July, we had our best year," he notes.
Carpenter says that from a governmental standpoint, the kiosks are a part of a comprehensive parking solution that includes a residential permit parking system, paid lots, a free parking lot just outside of downtown, and more. Expected excess profits from the meters will likely be used to add a parking structure or more shuttle services.
At recent meetings, Councilors appeared supportive of the system, if sensitive to complaints — they did ease paid parking hours for the winter.
That's not enough to completely appease McDonough, but parking issues won't be a problem for her much longer. After a summer of floods and complaints, she's decided to move her restaurant to east Manitou, far from the kiosks, come spring.