SYDNEY, N.S. -- A doctor is a step closer to being able to move her office into a residential neighbourhood after Cape Breton Regional Council approved a by-law change that will recognize medical clinics as an essential service and treat them differently than other businesses.

After weeks of waiting and wondering, Dr. Margaret Fraser will be able to move her office to Cottage Road in Sydney, but it wasn't an easy process, even in an area desperate for doctors.

"I was astonished," Fraser said. "When I started this, I really had no idea how difficult it would be to get that rezoning done."

Some councillors had concerns that allowing Fraser's office to be set-up in a residential neighbourhood would open the door to commercial development in similar areas.

That delayed the process and sparked a debate.

"We talk about exodus of migration with people, but we're starting to see a trend now where doctors are doing the same," said Cape Breton Regional Coun. Glenn Paruch, who represents the area. He put forward an amendment to deem medical clinics as an essential service and treat them differently from other businesses.

It’s an option that in the end was agreed upon by council at a meeting Tuesday night.

"This way here, it kind of takes the pressure off of councillors," Paruch said. "It helps the planning department with the guidelines they’re setting up, so things can happen in a more timely manner rather than three or four council meetings to maybe get a yes."

Paruch says feedback from residents who live in the area has been positive. Meanwhile, Fraser says having this option will make the area more attractive for future physicians.

"I've already spoken to one of the residents who is interested in staying here, but doesn't want to practice traditional office medicine," Fraser said. "She is possibly interested in moving into the space with me."

A final say on the by-law amendment will be decided after the municipality's holds a public hearing on the option in the coming weeks.