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Judge's words may be last in grower's long dispute with city of Watson

MONTEVIDEO -- The final words in the long-festering dispute between the city of Watson and vegetable grower Aziz Ansari may be these: "I want this to go away I think as much as you guys do.''

They were spoken by District Judge David Mennis on Thursday in District Court in Montevideo shortly after he ordered the two sides to abide by the agreement they had reached in April to settle their dispute.

The judge ordered Ansari to sketch out a diagram and fill out a one-page application for the permit for the raised vegetable beds on his residential property in Watson. In turn, attorney Paul Reuvers, representing the city of Watson and the Minnesota League of Cities, pledged that the City Council would act at its next meeting to approve the permit.

The judge's order gives Ansari and the city 30 days to complete the obligations spelled out in the mediated settlement. The city of Watson agreed to provide Ansari with $50,000 as well as a permit for the hoop-covered garden beds he installed two years ago.

Ansari had brought the matter to court charging that the city had not fulfilled its obligations.

Attorney Reuvers said the city understood the agreement to require that Ansari fill out an application and describe what he was doing before the city would issue a permit or pay the settlement fee. The application by Ansari would allow the city to provide public notice and review the plans to know that they were in keeping with the terms of the mediated settlement, he explained.

The attorney said the city was willing to do all it could to expedite the process, and had already waived all permit fees.

Ansari and his attorney, John Mack, told the court that they wanted to move things to a speedy conclusion as well. Ansari described to the court the delays and problems he has experienced previously when applying for city permits. He indicated that he was concerned that the city's demand for an application -- when an agreement was in place -- was only more of what he considers gamesmanship by the city.

Judge Mennis said he did not want to re-plow old ground in the dispute, and was well aware of the mistrust that exists between Ansari and city officials.

But the judge told Ansari that he could not now allow disparate treatment in Ansari's favor. He should fill out an application for the permit as would normally be required, even though the city already has agreed to issue the permit. The city cannot be expected to issue a permit "carte blanche'' and has a right to know the dimensions of the project, Mennis said.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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