Shop owners say customers are avoiding businesses in downtown Biddeford due to parking problems. Credit: CBS 13

Paying for parking is new this year in downtown Biddeford, but some businesses say the parking kiosks are driving customers away.

“The people just don’t want to come in and pay for parking to eat a breakfast,” Twin City Cafe waitress Judy Lambert said.

Five years ago, by an overwhelming margin, city voters rejected parking meters, but some city leaders claim that vote didn’t include municipal lots.

“Most of the people that I’ve spoken to believe that the vote that we had in 2014 included the lots,” at-large City Councilor Laura Seaver said.

City Councilor Laura Seaver voted against paid parking lots.

“It’s very confusing,” Seaver said. “They think that it’s too expensive.”

But Mayor Alan Casavant said making people pay opens up more parking spots.

“Tenants that were living up above the stores and employees themselves were parking for long stretches of times on the main streets that were hogging those particular spaces,” Casavant said. “Now shoppers and diners have access to all of that.”

But the lots were almost empty Tuesday and business owners say customers are avoiding the lots.

In the last half year, the city has taken in more than $150,000 from the kiosks, parking permits and parking tickets.

“Summer people coming, they’re getting ticketed left and right,” Joan Ladakakos of George’s Sandwich Shop said.

City leaders plan to use some of that revenue to build a parking garage for a development in the mill area, but some business owners say if they need a parking garage, they should pay for it.

“The city of Biddeford is for the developers, not the small-business people that made this town,” Ladakakos said.

Through a citizen petition, a group of residents has called for a special meeting with members of the City Council to air their grievances. That meeting will take place 6 p.m. Wednesday at Biddeford High School.