The City Commissioners unanimously voted to establish a committee to explore options for commemorating the Capital City Country Club property at their Oct. 14 meeting. The action comes after unmarked graves were discovered on the 7th hole of the country club’s golf course.
The purpose of the staff and community representative committee will be to determine ways to honor those who are buried on the property and provide recommendations to the City Commission. The City Manager will be responsible for establishing the committee and inviting representatives of the country club to join.
Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox said she wants the City to work with both the country club and community leaders, especially those from the historical society. She also said she wants to see a distinction between the grave sites and the rest of the golf course.
“We want to recognize that these graves are there and we want to memorialize and leave some type of remembrance so that those who come behind us will know that we did the right thing by these residents and made sure that they were properly recognized,” Williams-Cox said.
The City Attorney, Cassandra Jackson, provided several options for elected officials to consider related to the issue. These options included the use of eminent domain and the purchase of the current city lease with the club.
Elected officials settled on the the third option, the creation of a citizen and staff committee.
At the Sept. 9 meeting, the Commissioners voted to bring back an agenda item on the results of a 2019 ground-penetrating radar survey of the country club golf course. The survey report, prepared by the National Park Service, revealed a high probability of several unmarked graves located on the site, which historically was a 500-acre plantation operating from the 1800s to the Civil War.
In 1935, during the Great Depression, the Tallahassee Country Club gifted the property to the City of Tallahassee. In 1956, the City leased the property back to the Tallahassee Country Club for $1 per year for a term of 99 years, which will end in 2055.
Following the discovery of the graves, the Commissioners began exploring options for the future of the lease.
“There are several options that have been discussed in the Tallahassee community regarding possible action related to the grave-like anomalies located on the golf course property,” staff reports.
The City could potentially acquire the a section of the property by eminent domain. To acquire any property by eminent domain, the City is required to establish a public purpose and necessity.
“There are a few unique legal issues that would be presented,” staff reports. “Certainly, historic preservation is a public purpose. Regarding necessity for the taking, the City would have to establish with reasonable certainty the existence of the unmarked graves and the location of each grave, i.e. more testing.”