LaPorte says quality of life will boost economic success


Charles LaPorte

By Thomas Wilson
star staff
twilson@starhq.com

  Charles LaPorte believes Elizabethton's quality of life provides the best lure for large employers looking to relocate into the community.
  "Our biggest asset is, this is a community where people would want to live," LaPorte said. "We have to enhance that."
  LaPorte, 706 Allen Ave., is seeking one of three at large seats to the Elizabethton City Council in the Nov. 2 city election.
  He said the key recruiting tool for drawing large employers revolved around the education of the city school system, local recreation, low taxes, and overall quality of life in Elizabethton. He also said a community acquiring large employers with dozens of jobs was no easy feat for any community.
  "There is no magic word to say to acquire manufacturing," LaPorte said.
  Owner of LaPorte Construction in Elizabethton, LaPorte presently serves on the Elizabethton Construction Board of Adjustments and Appeals.
  LaPorte said existing city staff and elected officials had performed well in recent years. He said their ability to manage the city budget while avoiding a property tax increase was a positive for city residents and the city's future. He said that as a council member he would seek to continue the trend of balancing the city budget without advocating a property tax hike.
  "That is the direction I would continue going," he said.
  LaPorte said a great deal of work lay ahead for the city in preparing zoning and land use for commercial and industrial development in the community. He said ongoing commercial growth around town made land use a top priority for city staff and council members.
  "I think it a question whether we need to look at our zoning and planning codes to see if they are appropriate with the growth we have going on now," LaPorte said.
  The council recently approved a bid of $535,800 with a $107,000 contingency to demolish the old Carter County Memorial Hospital building. LaPorte said the property's future use should be carefully evaluated and the entire 5.4-acre property should be developed as one parcel rather than subdivided.
  "It is a prime piece of property. To parcel it out to sell parts would be a mistake," LaPorte said. "Parcels of that size and that location are few and far between."
  The city election ballot includes a referendum asking Elizabethton citizens whether they want liquor-by-the-drink legalized for sale in the city. LaPorte declined to comment on whether he felt the measure would pass. He did say the city government faced re-evaluating land use regulations to accommodate future establishments that earned liquor service licenses.
  "If it does pass there is the potential for many changes," LaPorte said. "We would have to properly and strictly write the zoning code."
  The council voted 4-3 in July 2003 approving an ordinance that allows the seasonal sale of fireworks within city limits during a two-week period through the Fourth of July and New Year's Day holidays. The shooting of fireworks remains illegal within city limits.
  LaPorte said the issue was definitely controversial and he did favor putting regulatory controls over fireworks vendors. He did not favor rewriting the city code banning the sale of fireworks.
  "I would not want to curtail children's activities that I participated in also," he said.
  A graduate of Elizabethton High School, LaPorte has three children, all of whom attend Elizabethton City Schools. He is a first cousin to sitting Mayor Sam LaPorte, who opted not to seek a third council term.
  He founded LaPorte Construction Company in 1961. He has been president and sole owner of the company since 1991. He has worked as a general contractor on commercial and residential construction projects. He has been a member of the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce since 1988.
  LaPorte served as building committee chairman with Habitat for Humanity in 1988 working as a construction supervisor and volunteer on five homes built in Elizabethton. He is past president of the Johnson City Homebuilders Association and was named "Builder of the Year" in 1997. He was also president of the Elizabethton Soccer Association in 2002 and 2003.
  LaPorte emphasized the City Council best served the citizens by maintaining a quality life in the city which was the best tool for bettering the economy and keeping citizens satisfied.
  "That works all the way from safety, planning and zoning and low taxes," he said.