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Anthony J. Renaldo, attorney, pioneer in development, zoning law
March 26, 1925 -- Jan. 29, 2007

A Mass of Christian Burial for Anthony J. Renaldo, who influenced the growth of Amherst and other suburbs during a 55-year career as a real estate lawyer and pioneer in zoning and development law, will be offered at 11 a.m. Friday in St.
Joseph University Catholic Church, 3269 Main St. Prayers will be said at 10 in Amigone Funeral Home, 5200 Sheridan Drive, Amherst.

Mr. Renaldo died Monday in Beechwood Continuing Care, Getzville, where he lived for about six months. He was 81.

He launched his career as a development lawyer as thousands of Buffalo families began looking for new homes in the suburbs of the Town of Tonawanda and Cheektowaga.

"He really was the first lawyer in the area who concentrated on development law," said retired State Supreme Court Justice John P. Lane, a longtime friend. "He litigated many major development cases."

A 1997 report in The Buffalo News described Mr. Renaldo as one of the area's five most important "power brokers," those with influence who often work in the background.

In an interview several years ago, Mr. Renaldo recalled that his first real estate case was not on behalf of developers. Instead, he represented a group of Town of Tonawanda residents who were seeking to block development along Sheridan Drive.

Perhaps as a result, Mr. Renaldo earned a reputation as an advocate who managed to be effective without becoming disagreeable.

"His approach, at least initially, would be to meet with neighbors, trying to work out a plan that was agreeable to everyone," Lane said.

But if that did not work, Mr. Renaldo also could be resourceful.

Jeffrey D. Palumbo, his law partner for more than 20 years, recalled that Mr. Renaldo invented a legal maneuver in zoning cases known as the "hole in the doughnut."

In Amherst and other suburbs, if surrounding residents refuse to accept a developer's proposal, they could often block the development by petitioning for a "supermajority," or 6-1 approval vote, rather than the usual majority of 4-3.

But Mr. Renaldo came up with a plan to create a buffer around the perimeter of the property where the zoning would not change. The developer could then use the center of the property (or the hole in the doughnut) for his plans, despite the wishes of surrounding neighbors.

Palumbo said the tactic has been upheld by an appeals court.

"He absolutely believed that development was the lifeblood of Western New York . . . that without development, Western New York would shrivel up and die," Palumbo said.

As part of his pro-development beliefs, Mr. Renaldo became closely associated with the Amherst Republican Party and helped to select the party's candidates for Amherst Town Board.

"Absolutely. He was never embarrassed to admit it," Palumbo said.

A 1950 graduate of the University of Buffalo Law School, Mr. Renaldo helped found the UB Law Alumni Association and served as its president in 1980. He also served as chairman of the school's alumni luncheon in New York City, emeritus member of the Dean's Advisory Council and chairman of the Law School's campaign steering committee.

The university recognized Mr. Renaldo by naming a classroom in his honor and selecting him for membership in the Hayes Society. He also was an adjunct professor and guest lecturer at the Law School.

During World War II, Mr. Renaldo participated in air attacks against Japan as a bombardier in the 73d Bomb Wing of the 20th Army Air Force.

Survivors include two sons, James and John; a daughter, Ellen; and his dear friend, Jeanne LoVullo.


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