A vote to bring TopGolf to north Charlotte, N.C., has been delayed after protests erupted due to concerns the entertainment venue will be built on top of a slave burial site.
The rezoning vote to decide if Charlotte will see a second TopGolf, apartment complex and retail space built near Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church has been delayed until Monday, July 17, Channel 9 reported. Neighbors protested the development, which will follow the first TopGolf opening earlier this month since they believed slaves were buried at the location. A historian hired by development company Charter Properties confirmed the suspicion.
Dan Morrill, a Ph.D professor at the University North Carolina at Charlotte, told the news station he visited the lot Thursday, June 15, and said slaves were traditionally buried in the woods with white people in the church’s cemetery, with a wall separating them. The Mallard Creek burial site, which Morrill said had graves marked with rocks, follows that tradition.
The proposal for the development was protested during the City Council meeting Monday, June 19, where controversy erupted over a sign that read, “SOS Save Our Slaves,” which was held by someone who appeared to be white, according to The Charlotte Observer.
“I’m not quite sure if you know how offensive that might be to those of us down here who are African-American,” council member Al Austin, who is Black, told the sign-holder. “I get what you’re trying to say, but you’re the wrong person to have that sign up. Do you understand me? Sir, that is the wrong message to send. … I am quite offended.”
Charter Properties said Morrill is still studying the property and one of the developers, Matt Browder, said once the report is received, they’ll need to “define the boundaries of the cemetery so that it can be properly preserved and protected.”
“Regardless of any zoning decision, the graves will not be disturbed,” he said.
One of the church’s neighbors said he would be disappointed if the burial site was overlooked.
“If they ignore the fact that there are slaves buried outside the wall, our big response would be ‘Shame on you,’” Rankin said.