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2½ years on, tomato grower and city reach a settlement

Aziz Ansari is shown in this file photo near the hoop structures where he raises vegetables on his residential lot alongside Minnesota Highway 7 in the city of Watson. Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny

WATSON -- A settlement has been reached to end a 2½-year dispute between the city of Watson and a resident using hooped structures to raise vegetables.

The agreement announced Friday by the city of Watson calls for the city to drop its legal actions against Aziz Ansari and pay him and his attorney $50,000.

It also allows Ansari to continue his vegetable-growing operation on property alongside state Highway 7 in the community. Ansari agreed to obtain appropriate permits for a nursery or greenhouse.

The city had filed charges in early 2008 alleging that Ansari violated city building codes by erecting plastic covered, hooped structures to grow vegetables on his residential property.

A court hearing on the city charges was to have been held this week, but had been postponed pending negotiations between the two sides.

As part of the agreement, Ansari agrees to drop his claims against the city, including a civil rights discrimination suit he had filed in district court. He had charged that the city had pressed charges against him as a person of color while ignoring egregious violations of city zoning and buildings codes by others in the community.

The city's payment to Ansari will be made by its insurer, the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, according to information from Watson city council member Mike Huntley.

Ansari said the settlement came after an approximate, 13-hour session with a mediator.

He said he was "absolutely'' relieved the skirmish was now over, and that he feels vindicated by it.

Ansari said he plans to continue raising vegetables this summer.

Council member Huntley said the city is also happy to have the dispute behind it. He hopes the end of the dispute will allow for rebuilding community spirit and getting the city back on track.

Most important, he said it will allow the city to focus on major sewer and water infrastructure projects already underway, according to Huntley. The city will be replacing its water storage tank and connecting its sanitary sewer system to Montevideo this summer, as well as installing new sewer lines year.