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Former Mitchell restaurant owner urges city to prohibit food trucks from parking in public lots

After coming upon a food truck parked directly next to her former Zesto restaurant in downtown Mitchell, Roxie Ackman called on city leaders to restrict the mobile food businesses from parking in city-owned lots.

Zesto.jpg
Shown here is the Zesto parking lot where a Nebraska food truck recently parked.
Sam Fosness Republic
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MITCHELL — A former Mitchell restaurant owner is calling on city leaders to ban food trucks from setting up in public parking lots after a recent experience left her frustrated.

As Roxie Ackman made her way to Zesto in downtown Mitchell a few weeks ago, she was met by a food truck parked directly next to the local restaurant’s outdoor dining area. The scene angered the former Zesto owner, who was convinced that there were ordinances or laws that prohibited a food truck from doing business a couple feet away from a brick and mortar eating establishment.

However, Ackman learned the food truck had the ability to park next to Zesto since no ordinances prohibiting a food truck from parking in a public lot exist.

“A couple weeks ago, I get to work, and we have a food truck parked two feet away from our picnic area. I called people asking why this is happening and find out there really aren’t any rules against it,” Ackman said during the public input portion of Monday’s Mitchell City Council meeting. “It’s very, very maddening.”

Although the city does not have any ordinances and regulations in place that bar food trucks from parking in city-owned public parking lots, Ackman says it’s time for city leaders to consider adopting regulations to avoid another incident like she recently experienced at Zesto — which abuts a city-owned lot.

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“I think we need to start getting some ordinances set up and rules set up so this doesn’t happen again,” she said.

If the council moves to adopt an ordinance regulating where food trucks can park in the city, Ackman suggested city leaders restrict mobile kitchens from parking in city-owned lots.

Ackman also emphasized traditional brick and mortar food establishments like Zesto pay their fair share of property taxes, while food trucks don’t have the burden of any property taxes.

“This guy was not even from South Dakota. He was from Nebraska. He doesn’t pay taxes here, but yet he can park a food truck out there on a lot that we pay taxes on?” Ackman questioned the council. “I don’t think that is right.”

Over the past few years, Mitchell has seen a surge in food trucks setting up in parking lots around the city.

In some instances, private business owners who allow food trucks to park on their lots charge the mobile kitchens a fee. But that’s not always the case, as some local food truck owners have found private parking lots in Mitchell to set up shop free of charge.

In the downtown corridor, there are a large swath of city-owned parking lots where food trucks can park. The parking lot on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Main Street next to the Mitchell Republic has become a popular spot for food trucks, especially during special events like First Fridays on Main. But Ackman is calling on the council to ban food trucks from utilizing city-owned parking lots.

“I think they shouldn’t be able to sell out of a city-owned property. I think they should have to be on private poverty and pay that person for the use of being parked there,” Ackman said.

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Ackman isn’t the first Mitchell resident to address concerns of food trucks being near traditional restaurants. Keke Leiferman, owner of the Back 40 in downtown Mitchell, previously criticized an organiza tion for bringing the large number of food trucks that were parked along the downtown area during First Fridays, calling it “direct competition" with downtown local restaurants.

While council member Kevin McCardle understood Ackman’s frustrations with the food truck parking so close to her former restaurant, he said regulating where food trucks can and can’t park would be “really hard.”

“I think it would be really hard to regulate that. I don't think you can single one parking lot out and not another,” McCardle said. “When we have First Fridays on Main, the trucks park all over the downtown city lots.”

After hearing Ackman's concerns, there were no indications that the council would revisit regulations regarding where food trucks can do business in Mitchell.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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