Brad Haber, the developer spearheading a renaissance of homebuilding in Egg Harbor City, was killed in a one-car accident early Friday morning on Nesco Road in Mullica Township.
Haber, 60, had sold 27 new homes in the Neighborhoods of Cedar Creek in the northern part of the city in just 15 months. He was on the verge of buying about 25 more lots from the city for $30,000 each, for the next phase of development.
The crash happened just before 6 a.m. along the 3400 block of Nesco Road, just south of Woodland Avenue. The cause is not yet known, said Mullica Township Chief of Police John Thompson.
A dog that was in the car was rescued and taken to a veterinarian.
An extrication device was used by the Elwood and Nesco Fire Departments, and Haber was pronounced dead at the scene.
Thompson said police are seeking witnesses to the accident. Haber’s 2007 Cadillac CTS had hit several trees and a utility pole, he said. Anyone with information is asked to call police at 609-561-7600 ext. 121 or 125.
The Medford resident gave a presentation to City Council in March, showing construction and sales there were going faster than anticipated.
“Brad was a visionary, there is no doubt about it. He had a vision for Egg Harbor, and we all could see that vision coming to reality,” Mayor Lisa Jiampetti said Friday. “He was an avid supporter of the community. He is going to be sorely missed.”
Attorney Jim Schroeder, president of the Greater Egg Harbor Chamber of Commerce, said Haber was a tireless builder who saw great potential in the historic housing stock of the city, as well as the new homes he was building.
“It’s devastating,” Schroeder said. “After the new schools got built, him coming in was the beginning of a residential renaissance for us. He was central to that.”
Schroeder said he and Haber had become good friends, and Haber often drove to work on Nesco Road, stopping at Farmer John’s Food Market along the way. The accident happened near the store, said Thompson, which is also in the vicinity of the Nesco Fire Hall.
Schroeder said Haber didn’t have active partners, just investors, so it is unclear how the business will go forward.
“He is the business,” said Schroeder, who speculated Haber’s wife will have to either hire a building project manager to step in and finish the project, or sell the project as is.
When The Neighborhoods project was granted a Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) tax abatement in 2012, giving purchasers of the homes five years of reduced taxes on the building portion of their property tax bill, some in town objected. They said they got no help with their high taxes and the arrangement wasn't fair. They also feared they would be unable to sell their homes if they had to compete with Haber’s new homes.
Officials said at the time that bringing more homeowners into town would spread the cost of running the government among more taxpayers, lowering rates for all in the long run. The city has the highest effective tax rate in Atlantic County.
The Neighborhoods of Cedar Creek had generated $104,861 in property-tax payments in its first 15 months, city Tax Collector Bridget Hayes said in early April, with more tax payments coming in by the due date of May 1.
Brad Haber Homes had paid the city $690,000 to buy the first 45 lots, $220,000 in approval, filing and professional fees, and $300,000 in development fees, City Chief Financial Officer Jodi Kahn said in April.
Haber said in a presentation to council in March his company planned to purchase 25 more lots from the city in October and have the lots paved by January 2015.
City Councilman Robert Guerrieri had invited Haber to make his presentation to council, to show residents how the development was helping city finances.
“What a fine man. I wanted to help him get the word out to citizens,” he said. “He did a great job when he came to the council. It’s a tragic loss to this city.”
Haber described himself as a “born-again home builder” in an interview with The Press in March.
He worked for major homebuilder K. Hovnanian for years before starting his own, much smaller company.
“My history at K. Hovnanian, we delivered 500 homes a year,” he said.
In his Egg Harbor City development, his plan was to build one or two homes a month. When the economy and real estate market improved more — he expected it to happen in 2016—he said he would increase that to three homes a month.
“There's an old scuba diving expression that says plan your dive and then dive your plan” he said at the time. “I'm trying to keep it to the pace where I can deliver the houses on time in top-shape quality, profitably and keep my customers as fans. That's the most important thing.”
Staff Writer Brian Ianieri contributed to this report.
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