NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP--In a vote along party lines, the board of supervisors appointed former township Democratic Party chairman Dennis Fisher to fill the unexpired term of Jennifer Dix, who resigned in June to move to New Hampshire with her family.
He will fill Dix’s six-year term which expires at the end of 2019.
At the July 25 meeting, the board voted 3-1 to appoint Fisher, who is currently the elected township auditor, a post that he has held since January and will have to resign in order to sit on the board.
Voting for Fisher were fellow Democrats Phil Calabro, John Mack and Linda Bobrin.
Republican Supervisor Kyle Davis voted against the appointment.
Fisher was one of seven candidates that board members interviewed for the vacancy at a special July 18 three-hour public meeting.
The other candidates were Kierstyn Zolfo, Ben Connolly, Jerry Festa, Jo Vlastaris, John D’Aprile and Gerry Couch, a former township supervisor.
Before the replacement vote, Supervisor Davis had offered the names of Republicans Couch, Festa and Vlastaris to fill the vacancy, but failed to receive any support from the three sitting Democrats.
“Everybody interviewed was great,” exclaimed Chairman Calabro, after Fisher was chosen, “It was difficult to sit there and [field] questions.”
Fisher has been the long-time chairman of the Newtown Democratic Committee, also known as Newtown Democrats, until he resigned in June after deciding not to seek reelection to the leadership post.
He was also a member of Newtown’s planning commission from 2005 until December 2018, a position he had to resign after winning the election for township auditor in November.
Speaking with BucksLocalNews.com, Fisher credited his 12 years as a planner to helping him understand the intricacies of zoning and land development.
“I was kind of a lay person to the terminology, I learned how to read plans,” he explained, “I was a social worker by training, so it was a learning curve. You also need input from the citizens, regular people, that’s important.”
In addition to land development, Fisher said that his other key goals as supervisor will be to “just keeping the town a wonderful place to live.”
“Paying attention to our environment is very important as well as to make sure the public is safe and able to enjoy what we have in Newtown,” he added,” Just the whole infrastructure that we have.”
Currently, Fisher works as the program director for the Behavioral Heath Training & Education Network, an agency which trains Philadelphia’s drug, alcohol and mental health workers.
The group operates under the auspices of an umbrella organization, the non-profit The Consumer Satisfaction Team, Inc.
Fisher, who said that he soon plans to retire, described himself as “the first Democrat in a family of Republicans,” something which he said helps him “understand that every decision is not a party decision.”
The new supervisor will be formally sworn into office at the Aug. 8 meeting and will undoubtedly be hitting the ground running.
At that meeting, the supervisors have tentatively scheduled a public hearing on the updated plans of Arcadia Green to build a controversial residential development on Buck Road near the Newtown Bypass.
“That’s a big project and a decision that will be important,” Fisher acknowledged.
It’s the third time in three years that Philadelphia-based Arcadia Land Development Co. had proposed a residential development at the site.
Recently, the developer had submitted another Planned Residential Development (PRD) application which requires that the supervisors hold public hearings on the matter and render a decision within a certain timeframe.
Under the PRD process, which is permitted by state law, the township's normal planning and zoning channels are bypassed. It gives the supervisors sole authority to approve a development plan in an expedited manner while allowing developers to fast-track their projects.
In December, the board had unanimously accepted a lengthy report which called for rejecting the controversial Arcadia Green housing development, citing traffic as one of the key reasons.
That document had recommended that the board reject the plans calling for building 85 units on a 27.6 acre tract.
Residents from the adjoining communities were not only upset about the loss of open space and increased traffic, but also had opposed plans to tear down a home on an existing cul-de-sac in Newtown Crossing so that an exit-only road could be built for the proposed development.
Last year’s rejection was the second time that the supervisors had turned down Arcadia’s plans for the site.
In 2015, the board had also unanimously dismissed a much smaller development, which then had proposed building 33 single-family homes on 19.2 acres.
It’s not known what the newest proposal calls for, but is expected to illicit the same public outcry from neighbors, as well as skepticism from township leaders.
The developer will offer details of the plan at the next supervisors’ meeting, which most likely will be several hours long and again packed with residents.