When Ward 1 Councilor Marina Delune looks at Belfast she sees the community she fell in love with 20 years ago, but also one that has suffered from the slow creep of gentrification. If elected to a second term, she hopes to continue working to keep Belfast a diverse community, an effort that has many pieces, but hinges on the availability of affordable housing, she said.

For a long time, she said, the trend was to split the large, single-family homes in town into duplexes and multifamily units. Now the tide has turned, with wealthy retirees buying multifamily homes and restoring them to single-family dwellings. As a result, Delune said, the number of affordable homes and rentals in town is dwindling.

She recalled meeting a couple from Texas who were visiting Belfast and asked where they could find a nice home for under $1 million.

“I just about fell over,” she said. “This used to be a kind of gritty town.”

At the same time, Delune has often voted for the sort of amenities that appeal to people looking for a nice town to move to — most recently she, along with a majority of the Council, approved the purchase of a lot that effectively kept Belfast Common intact, and voted to buy a segment of the Belfast & Moosehead Lake rail corridor to be used for recreational and railroad uses.

In conversation, she seems genuinely torn by the idea that making your city better sometimes runs the risk of making it worse.

“I think we’re right at that tipping point where Belfast could become much more like Camden,” she said.

Delune recalled coming to Belfast for the first time more than two decades ago while traveling to Lubec to visit relatives. While walking up a Main Street much different in appearance than today she was overcome with a sense of belonging. “I heard a voice in my head saying, ‘This is your home,'” she said.

“And a lot of people have told me the same thing. You just feel something in this town that’s very alive and vibrant and caring and beautiful.”

She credited the people and the architecture, among other things, and said the same feeling continues to attract new people to Belfast every year. “It’s just that now they have a lot more money,” she said.

Delune said it would be impossible to stop the trend of gentrification, and she was quick to say that the new residents have added much to the community — personally she loves the Friday Night Art Walks — but the city must do what it can to keep a diverse population in Belfast, she said. The major issues are that young people aren’t able to find work in the area, affordable housing downtown is disappearing and area farmers are struggling to stay in business.

Some of these problems are beyond the reach of city government, Delune said, but she stressed that a lot could be done if city councilors and committees put in the effort. She gave the city’s energy and climate committee as an example. The group recently got $48,000 is grant funding for energy-efficiency improvements to city buildings and helped put in place a city ordinance that will offer energy-efficiency improvement grants to local homeowners.

The attic of City Hall may finally get insulated, and there is talk of putting a solar thermal hot water heater on the roof of the police station. The group also aims to weatherize 200 homes over the next five years, and given the scope of the committee’s past weatherization programs, the goal doesn’t seem out of reach.

“The same can happen with affordable housing,” she said, adding that it is important to have a city councilor on the committee as a liaison between the volunteer group and the city’s lawmakers, “but it takes a few years.”

City Manager Joe Slocum recently described how the now-defunct committee disbanded because the group realized that the “workforce housing” the group was charged with promoting — homes roughly between $120,000 and $140,000 — was relatively available in Belfast today.

“But when the economy turns around, I don’t think you’re going to find that,” Delune said.

If elected to a second term, Delune said she would continue to take on these challenges. Echoing a sentiment of many councilors before her, Delune said much of her first year in office was consumed with learning the ropes. During her second year, she has begun to hit her stride and hopes she can use her experience to the benefit of the city.

Among her accomplishments, Delune listed her support for hiring a full-time economic development director, the negotiations she initiated with the owners of the former Crosby School, since considered as a possible venue for a performing arts or civic center — though Delune would like to see it as a “community center,” with lower-income apartments on the upper floors.

Faced with falling state revenues and an increased school district budget, Delune was outspoken about using a portion of the surplus to offset taxes this year, saying that it was the right time to use the “rainy day fund.” If the city faces the same problems next year, she said she would support doing the same, though she sees the shortfalls as a temporary issue.

She worked on the city’s comprehensive plan and spoke on behalf of home-based businesses, and recently pushed to give greater preference to local companies that bid on city contracts, though her efforts have met with considerable resistance from most of the rest of the Council.

Delune has supported Our Town Belfast, the downtown-focused business group, and has become involved in efforts to bring a food storage facility to Belfast, an initiative started by former Councilor Jan Anderson. She voiced an interest in a business incubator and attracting businesses to the Industrial Park.

“I really enjoyed my first term,” she said. “I know a lot about how things work now and how to be effective.”