Eldridge Broussard Jr., the founder of a Los Angeles-based athletic group, met privately Sunday for the first time with neighbors of his Oregon property, telling them he will withdraw an application to house up to 100 people on the land.
Neighbor Jack Strand said about 20 residents of this area, 40 miles east of Portland, met at his house with Broussard and three other representatives of the Ecclesia Athletic Assn.
"He told us that he plans to withdraw the temporary permit application on Monday," Strand said.
The announcement appeared to be another reversal in moves by Broussard and his group, which moved up to 100 people onto its farmland recently and applied for a permit to legally house the residents there.
"The neighbors are pretty much going to take a wait-and-see attitude," Strand said.
Broussard told the neighbors that he and some adult members of Ecclesia plan to remain on the property but that the children will be going to other unspecified locations, Strand said.
"Neighborhood members asked him a lot of questions, but we didn't get a lot of answers," Strand said.
Broussard broke a self-imposed silence Saturday with a news conference to attack what he called biased news coverage of his group. Broussard vowed then to pitch a tent on the property and continue a liquids-only fast he said began 73 days ago until four news organizations agree to a public debate.
Broussard scrubbed a weekend trip to Los Angeles and instead issued the debate challenge Friday in letters to Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, the Oregonian and KOIN-TV in Portland.
Broussard said reporters misconstrued the "vow of poverty" filed with other documents by the group in its Clackamas County land-use permit application. In it, signers declare that all of their belongings and assets are under Broussard's control. Broussard claimed, however, that no one has signed the vow.
Broussard, pastor and co-founder of the Watts Christian Center, founded Ecclesia in the late 1970s. The former University of Oregon and Pacific University basketball player, said he began Ecclesia to help ghetto children through athletics.
The large influx of young newcomers in the quiet, rural setting has worried some nearby residents, provoking fears of a confrontation like the one in Antelope, a central Oregon town, where the government was taken over by followers of Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh five years ago. Rajneesh disbanded the commune and moved to India.