evelopers want to put the sports venue, apartments and retail space at West Mallard Creek Church Road and I-85, but a historian said it would be illegal to build on part of the land. (Photo: WSOCTV.com)

Historian finds unmarked graves of slaves at proposed Topgolf site

Developers want to put the sports venue, apartments and retail space at West Mallard Creek Church Road and Interstate-85, but a historian said it would be illegal to build on part of the land.

Eyewitness News reported last week that neighbors were concerned there could be slaves buried on the property.

The development company, Charter Properties, hired historian Dan Morrill, who confirmed it's true, but Morrill's findings may not be enough to stop the project.

"The noise, the lighting, the traffic; all these concerns are being ignored," Darrin Rankin said.

Rankin lives near the proposed development.

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He and his neighbor Ayman Mihiar are trying to stop developers from building nearly 400 apartments, 40,000 feet of retail space and a Topgolf facility in their neighborhood.

"We're asking and demanding City Council people to decline and deny the petition for rezoning in this area," Mihiar said.

They said their biggest concern is that part of the land where developers would build an access road is a burial ground for slaves.

Morrill told Eyewitness News he visited the lot Thursday.

He said that following tradition, the slaves were buried in the woods and a wall separated them from white people in the church's cemetery.

Morrill said the graves were marked with rocks, which a 90-year-old church member confirmed.

"It is vindication," Rankin said.

Morrill said it's illegal to disturb areas with human remains, but there is a legal process a developer can follow to excavate the land.

Topgolf sent the following statement:

"The development partners have hired Dr. Dan Morrill, Professor Emeritus at the University North Carolina at Charlotte to advise them on the presence and location of any graves near the proposed construction site. Dr. Morrill's research is incomplete at this time and it is impossible to say what if any impact it will have on the proposed development."

"If they ignore the fact that there are slaves buried outside the wall our big response would be shame on you," Rankin said.

Neighbors plan to show up at the City Council meeting Monday to encourage leaders to deny the proposal.

The board is set to vote on deferring the rezoning vote for a month during Monday's meeting.

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