Some residents are pushing for a public referendum on an expansive redevelopment project slated for the site of the former Lord & Taylor building and the town’s train station parking lots even as town officials argue such would leave Westfield subject to potentially costly litigation.
Marc Pfeiffer, assistant director of the Bloustein Local Government Research Center at Rutgers, in an interview said he understands why people might want a referendum on the project, but said the law appears to be on the side of those saying a referendum is prohibited for this project. The redevelopment process, Pfeiffer said, includes opportunity for public input.
“There’s transparency in the process to do that. There’s opportunity for questions to be asked,” Pfeiffer said. “It appears from your reporting and official comments that there’s been a lot of opportunity for public engagement.”
Referenda also can present their own obstacles.
“One of the issues and challenges for public referendums and high levels of transparency is that those can also serve to frustrate public policy and slow things down or bring them to a halt because of the time it takes to do those things,” Pfeiffer said.