(a) Parties to proceedings authorized in this article and Article X-A 1 may utilize mediation as an aid in completing such proceedings. In proceedings before the zoning hearing board, in no case shall the zoning hearing board initiate mediation or participate as a mediating party. Mediation shall supplement, not replace, those procedures in this article and Article X-A once they have been formally initiated. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as expanding or limiting municipal police powers or as modifying any principles of substantive law.
(b) Participation in mediation shall be wholly voluntary. The appropriateness of mediation shall be determined by the particulars of each case and the willingness of the parties to negotiate. Any municipality offering the mediation option shall assure that, in each case, the mediating parties, assisted by the mediator as appropriate, develop terms and conditions for:
(1) Funding mediation.
(2) Selecting a mediator who, at a minimum, shall have a working knowledge of municipal zoning and subdivision procedures and demonstrated skills in mediation.
(3) Completing mediation, including time limits for such completion.
(4) Suspending time limits otherwise authorized in this act, provided there is written consent by the mediating parties, and by an applicant or municipal decisionmaking body if either is not a party to the mediation.
(5) Identifying all parties and affording them the opportunity to participate.
(6) Subject to legal restraints, determining whether some or all of the mediation sessions shall be open or closed to the public.
(7) Assuring that mediated solutions are in writing and signed by the parties, and become subject to review and approval by the appropriate decisionmaking body pursuant to the authorized procedures set forth in the other sections of this act.
(c) No offers or statements made in the mediation sessions, excluding the final written mediated agreement, shall be admissible as evidence in any subsequent judicial or administrative proceedings.
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