CAIRO — Cairo City Council members approved a 5th Street rezoning request Monday evening with the intentions of creating a new medical facility.

The property, which sits adjacent to Grady General Hospital, was originally purchased by Dr. Bill Bailey in the 1970s, but has remained uninhabited for years.

Bailey initially attempted to rezone the property in 1995 for the purpose of constructing a pharmacy, but his bid was rejected out of concern for its potential impact on nearby property values.

With the area having grown in the years since then, Bailey’s daughter-in-law Cecelia appeared before the city council to describe what she believed should happen next.

“Now that all the doctors’ offices and all have come out this way, I think this would be a pretty good time for us to go ahead and have it changed over,” she said. “We’ve had some people that have been interested in using it for medical offices.”

Southwest Georgia Regional Commission staff evaluated the property and recommended that Bailey’s request be approved, citing the move’s potential to increase access to healthcare services.

Members of the Cairo Planning Commission unanimously approved Bailey’s request June 20.

Betty Ragan, who has lived down the street on Ben Hill Avenue since 1968, opposed the proposal, arguing that it would likely compound the traffic headaches she said she deals with most mornings.

“If you’re familiar with Buchannan (Street), it’s a racetrack day and night,” Ragan said. “Some days I have to sit and wait to get out of my driveway because cars are backed up.”

The property in question sits at the corner of 5th Street and 12th Avenue, with a driveway exiting onto the latter.

“If the traffic is going to be coming out on 12th, then it shouldn’t be too big of a problem,” said Tim Gurley, who lives a block away on Culpepper Drive.

Gurley shared some of Ragan’s concerns but said he wanted to see the property utilized in some way.

“What we don’t need in our community is abandoned houses,” he said.

With the property being located adjacent to the hospital, Council member Jimmy Douglas said he imagined it would be used for offices with hours of operation during the daytime.

“I understand there may be some traffic considerations, but it’s time for that piece of property to be improved and go back on the tax rolls rather than be an abandoned building,” he said.

Douglas’ motion to approve the rezoning request was carried unanimously by the council members present.

The SGRC’s report noted that it is possible that nearby property values could be somewhat diminished, but also cited potential economic benefits from the rezoning.

Regional commission staff further recommended that the city council consider developing a specific zoning district to accommodate large-scale public facilities such as Grady General to allow nearby traffic to be more compatible.