Editors note: This is the first in a series of stories following issues with a new downtown parking system in Greeley. Complete Colorado is meeting with downtown business owners, employees and the city to detail the system, which has left hundreds of people confused and angry. In this segment, we talk to residents and employees in the downtown area frustrated by the changes.
GREELEY — If you’re having lunch in downtown Greeley and the service is slow, don’t automatically blame the wait staff. Your server may well be walking several blocks from moving his or her car to avoid a parking ticket under Greeley’s new parking system.
Critics of the system admit parking in downtown Greeley has never been easy, but since the city went to using license plate recognition software and classifying the area into different “zones,” it’s gotten even more complicated, with no all-day free spots in the heart of the business district and aggressive ticketing, immobilizing and towing.
The situation frustrated one downtown resident so much, he started a petition on Change.org to ask the city to rework its 7-month-old plan.
“I have received five erroneous warnings/tickets since the parking laws changed,” said one person who signed the petition started by Greeley resident Nick Revitte. “I work downtown, and it is so frustrating to be moving my vehicle every two hours only to be ticketed. Something needs to change!”
The petition says in part that the new policies, which went into effect earlier this year, “stunt overall growth potential downtown, make downtown less accessible and desirable to visit, and severely alienates the residents and workforce. The policy currently only serves the purpose of generating massive amounts of revenue for an out of touch City Council.”
For the most part, Greeley’s downtown area has had two-hour parking for as long as many can remember, but when the clock was up, those who moved their vehicles only had to move them to any new location, even if that was the next spot over. Now, however, the rules have changed, and they have resulted in numerous parking tickets totaling hundreds of dollars for some people.
According to the City of Greeley website, the city offers 2,000 free two-hour spots between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Parking is free after 5 p.m. and on weekends and holidays. All-day parking is free on two select lots, but they are lots that are further away from the hub of the area.
Revitte said after numerous attempts to work something out with Will Jones, deputy director of public works for Greeley, former Greeley City Councilman Jon Smail and Mayor John Gates, he finally just decided to take the issue door-to-door, talking to anyone who will listen in downtown.
In addition to personally talking to business owners, employees and customers, Revitte’s petition, as of Tuesday morning, had 359 signatures in just its first few days. Revitte has spent the past few days placing flyers on cars asking for support to get Greeley City Council to listen to him, and he said that support has been overwhelming.
“I can’t tell you how many people have said it’s so refreshing to hear they are not alone,” Revitte said.
Complete Colorado has spoken to many to downtown employees, business owners and residents about the situation, all said they felt like the new system is complicated and an inconvenience for their employees and clients.
“I am 78-years-old,” said Carole Keckler, who lives in an apartment near 8th Avenue and 8th Street. “I have COPD and exercise-induced asthma. If I move my car to go to the grocery store, I can’t park back in front of my building for four hours. I have to park somewhere else. Sometimes, I’ve had to park out front, take my groceries and leave them inside the door, go park my car blocks away and then walk back and carry my groceries up the 26 stairs to the apartment.”
The issue, they say is with a “zone” system put in place that only allows you to park for free for two hours. You can pay $2 an hour up to $10 to park longer, but it must be done on a smartphone application, something not everyone has, and many times the app doesn’t work, one woman said.
When you move your car, you must park in a completely different zone as the two-hour limit now applies to the entire zone, not just a single spot. Most zones are separated by several blocks.
However, if you park in the “orange zone,” which is the prime areas around downtown’s most frequented businesses and the courthouse, not only must your move at least two blocks from the original spot but if you go outside the orange zone you can’t come back for four hours.
License plate recognition software allows the city to include a photo of your car on the ticket to prove the violation.
If it’s confusing to those who frequent the area a lot, one woman said, imagine what it’s like for those new to Greeley.
Knowing when and where to park requires a “college degree,” Sandra Olander said.
“You have to commit it to memory,” Olander said. “I’m new to town, so I expected it to take some time getting used to things, but this is crazy. Start in the red zone, move to the blue zone and then to the green zone. If you ever cross into the orange zone, you better make sure you have a map on you to remind you exactly where you can and can’t be. This is more like the Twilight Zone. Dumb, just dumb.”
Complete Colorado is meeting with Jones and Town Manager Roy Otto later this week to get their take on the issue and gather additional information about the issue.
It’s not just regular downtown clientele, however, that is impacted. Charles Krien said his first experience under the news rules would be unbelievable if he hadn’t been there himself.
Krien recently attended the funeral of a close family friend at a local business. He said there was a prefuneral remembrance of his friend’s life, and just before the funeral was due to start, the funeral home director made an announcement to the crowd that they needed to take a break and move their vehicles first if they were parked in the area or they would receive a ticket from the city.
The director promised not to start the funeral until everyone had returned and was seated.
“I thought it was absurd,” Krien said. “Here we are attending a funeral with a bunch of grieving friends and family, and we have to leave and go park around the block.”
Revitte said some of the people in his complex live on fixed incomes. As parking permits near their homes have
waiting lists, the only other option is to pay the $10 a day to park longer, at 20 business days a month on average, that would add an additional $200 cost to an already limited budget, he said.
Two petition signers agreed.
“I pay to live here, I shouldn’t be fined for parking next to my place,” one man wrote.
“It makes it very hard on elderly people who are just trying to stay independent in their homes,” another woman said.
Keckler also agreed, adding unless she has no plans to go anywhere and can park at the train depot, she is up every two hours moving to another location and walking back to her apartment.
“It’s really a hassle,” Keckler said. “It’s too far to walk with my COPD especially if I have to carry anything. It’s really dangerous now with ice and snow. That’s what I worry about the most. I really don’t want to take the chance of falling and breaking a hip.”
Revitte vows to keep pushing until he gets 500 signatures on his petition, at that point he’ll take it to the city council. He said he’s talked to most of the businesses in the area and no one is happy.
“I think this policy was deliberately slipped through without anybody downtown having any real input,” Revitte said. “When Will Jones told me that the process of getting all our input was meticulous and he spent months and months doing it, I’d argue his process was extremely dysfunctional because in nine days I’ve managed to get almost 15 times the input he said he did.”