Although municipal boards are not bound by the strict rules of evidence during the conduct of proceedings, their findings and determinations must be based upon substantial credible evidence created in the record. This applies when a municipal board acts in a quasi-judicial capacity during the review of applications for development under the Municipal Land Use Law, N.J.S.A. 40:55D-1, et seq. (“MLUL”), and when a municipal board (specifically, a planning board) acts in a quasi-legislative capacity during a preliminary investigation into whether certain properties are in need of redevelopment pursuant to the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-1, et seq. (“LRHL”).
In order to meet the substantial evidence standard an adequate record must exist. This requires a verbatim recording of the proceedings. The MLUL expressly requires that “[t]he municipal agency shall provide for the verbatim recording of the proceedings by either stenographer, mechanical or electronic means.” N.J.S.A. 40:55D-10f. Although there is no comparable provision in the LRHL, the Appellate Division in Concerned Citizens v. Mayor implied that the minimum procedures required for hearings on applications set forth in the MLUL applies equally to the conduct of proceedings by municipal agencies under the LRHL. 370 N.J.Super. 429, 463 certif. denied 182 N.J . 139 (2004). The application of the MLUL in this regard is reasonable in light of the importance a written record plays in memorializing issues, concerns and policy considerations that were relevant when the municipal board made its determination. A written record of proceedings also provides the judiciary with a basis for evaluating the validity of a determination when it is challenged on appeal.