Land swap could mean big changes for Asheville

In a land-swap deal worked out between City Council and area developers, land in Asheville will be swapped for land in Gastonia.

“It’s a classic example of a win/win, public/private deal,” gushed Buncombe Economic Development Director Bill Jones. “Gastonites were sick and tired of all the polluting industry, the hot climate, the jokes about excess gas,” he said. “And, God knows, Asheville could use more industry. And the towns were about the same size, so we just swapped.”

Under the agreement, the two towns’ zoning will be exchanged, and all the industries will relocate. Gastonia officials are taking bids on building the world’s largest flat-bed truck, so that Biltmore Estate can be hauled down to the shores of Lake Wylie. Asheville will get 12 textile mills, seven furniture factories and a Krystal franchise.

Citizens have several options: Find someone in the sister city to swap houses with; rent space on the flat-bed truck to move their private home; or stay in their own home and enter the ECON Retraining Program, which will prepare area workers for new jobs.

“It’s really the best of both worlds, when you think about it,” said Jones. “People who like hot weather can live in Gastonia, which will be renamed Gasville. They’ll be able to visit the world’s largest private home — but, even better, it’ll be on a lake! And the lower elevation will probably rejuvenate their chakras, too. Meanwhile, folks who want a manufacturing job and the beautiful scenery of the mountains can live in Asheville, which will be renamed Ashetonia.”

Gaston County Chamber of Development President Luke R. Sellers agreed with Jones. “My family’s all excited about living in Ashetonia,” he said. “My son’s looking forward to racing his ORV on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and we can’t wait to see real healing crystals.”

Despite the optimism displayed by economic officials in both towns, some citizens expressed dissatisfaction with the deal. “I’ve watched enough reruns of the Beverly Hillbillies to know what mountain living is like,” said Jimmy B. Goode, who manages the Krystal burger castle on Wilkinson Boulevard in Gastonia. “If I wanted to walk a hundred yards to use the bathroom, I’d go camping, not move to some New Age Fancy Schmantzy little tourist town where you can’t even buy a decent burger.”

Asheville Incense Therapist Mellow Rivers complained that she had not enjoyed her travels through Gastonia on her way to the Zen retreat in Peachland, S.C. “The whole place has this edgy, out-of-balance feel to it,” she said. “The industrial smokestacks are like giant evil incense sticks, smudging the city with bad vibes. I may just move to Taos.”

One major sticking point to the deal may be topless dancing. While Asheville is considering laws that would ban strip clubs, Gastonia is home to the world-famous Paper Doll Lounge, longtime site of the Wet T-Shirt Contest, and countless other adult-entertainment night spots. A Gastonia Gazette poll found that 75 percent of men would not leave Gastonia unless some naked dancers went north with them, while an equal number of Asheville women said they would not live in a city where women were objectified and humiliated for so-called entertainment purposes.

One major benefit of the swap is that the completion of I-26 to Tennessee will be greatly accelerated. Several dozen of Gaston County’s underused interstate highways will be shipped up to Madison County on the flatbed’s return trip. “Laying down already-built interstate is a piece of cake,” said DOT Engineer Dusty Rhodes. “You just hoist it up with a crane and drop it wherever you want it to run: Instant transportation.”

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