Commission recommends plan for coffee shop on Mount Sequoyah

The Ozark building at Mount Sequoyah is shown on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. The Planning Commission recommended approval of a plan to rezone the building to allow for a coffee shop or cafe. (Flyer photo/Todd Gill)

A plan to put a coffee shop on Mount Sequoyah has cleared the first hurdle.

Planning Commissioners on Monday voted 9-0 to approve a rezoning request for one of the buildings on the mountaintop campus to allow for commercial use.

Emily Gentry, president of the nonprofit Mount Sequoyah Center, said the goal is to find an outside partner to operate a coffee shop or cafe inside the center’s Ozark building, which sits directly behind the iconic Parker Hall on the east side of the campus entrance driveway.

The campus was previously zoned entirely for institutional use such as for churches, schools and government facilities. The property was owned by the United Methodist Church for 94 years before being transferred to the nonprofit group in 2016.

The new zoning was for the building is Neighborhood Services General, which will allow a coffee shop or cafe to operate.

The new district only allows for buildings up to three stories tall. The remainder of the 29-acre campus has no height limitations under its institutional zoning, but structures over two stories must be situated away from residential properties.

The group had previously submitted a plan to rezone the entire campus as a planned zoning district with various uses throughout the property, such as for small concerts, food services and a hotel. That plan, however, was withdrawn before it could be heard by the Planning Commission after neighbors raised concerns. Meetings with neighbors have since shown many in support of the request for just the coffee shop, Gentry said.

There was no public comment during Monday’s commission meeting.

Commissioner Mary Madden asked why the rezoning was necessary when the campus includes a cafeteria and kitchen. City staff said in-house kitchens are allowed under the institutional district, but commercial use is prohibited.

With the commission’s consent, it will now be up to the City Council to formally approve the request.