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CHAMPAIGN — After more than a year of talks, the Champaign City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to reduce the amount of time landlords can hold certain felonies against potential tenants from five years to two.

The language in the city code had come under criticism for discriminating against the formerly incarcerated, and last June, more than 700 residents signed a petition urging the rule be scrapped altogether.

When council members debated the topic then, they opted not to fully repeal it and to continue discussing it.

In December, the council moved forward with changes that were approved Tuesday and will make it clear that the two-year rule refers to convictions in which someone is sentenced to prison, not probation. It also lists the types of felonies that can be considered, such as murder, robbery and arson.

“I do plan to vote for this, although I ultimately am hoping that we’ll consider a further reduction and ultimately an elimination of this,” council member Alicia Beck said. “I think it’s a good move, a move in the right direction. But I do think that we need to continue to look at the fact that we have a very limited housing stock for people who are returning to community from institutions of incarceration.”

Urbana’s human-rights ordinance already prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of prior arrests or convictions.

The council also voted to provide relief to liquor-license holders affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The changes will defer liquor-license fees and provide fee credits for certain licensees, extend to-go sales of cocktails for one year to match state law, allow alcohol deliveries until the state reaches Phase 5 of its reopening plan, and raise the limit on package-liquor sales from 15 percent of an establishment’s total liquor sales to 45 percent until Phase 5.

After the state shut down dining at bars and restaurants in March, Mayor Deb Feinen issued an emergency order allowing for the delivery of packaged liquor.

Of the 104 liquor licensees eligible, 46 have applied for emergency riders to sell packaged liquor, city staff said.

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