Joanne Moesswilde recalled the moment she decided to challenge for a seat on the City Council. It was a beautiful evening at the weekly outdoor music series Belfast Summer Nights. Moesswilde, a registered nurse who came to Maine to get away from the noise and pollution of the Baltimore suburb where she grew up, she realized she loved her city too much to see it destroyed by a large industry.

The industry on her mind was Nordic Aquafarms. How it could destroy the city remains to be seen, but she knew for a start that it would wipe out a large green space, and she expected it would tax the city's natural resources, municipal water, roads and housing. Most of all, it was the scale that bothered her.

"I don't really care what's in the effluent from the fish farm," she said. "I don't want them to come. I don't care if they're doing it perfectly. I don't want a huge industry here."

All five city councilors, including Neal Harkness, whom Moesswilde is challenging in Ward 2, have supported the project over sustained calls from residents to slow down.

Moesswilde attended many public meetings and addressed the council several times with concerns about the proposal, but came away feeling that she and other residents weren't being heard.

"I wanted to be part of the conversation, and that didn't seem possible without being on the the council," she said. "There's never a conversation. You say something, a bunch of other people say something, then the council holds forth."

In part, she blames the current predicament on the city's big-game-hunting approach to economic development, with its focus on bringing in large businesses. As a city councilor, Moesswilde said she would be an advocate for small businesses, slow and steady growth, and other "solutions that are sustainable and good for most people."

While the fish farm unquestionably got her into the race, Moesswilde says she isn't a one-issue candidate.

Encouraging the construction of more housing would be a priority. As a city councilor, she would look into creative solutions, like converting vacant portions of former MBNA buildings to residences and permitting a tiny house park at the soon-to-be vacant Public Works lot on Congress Street.

To keep taxes low, she would look at the possibility of a new property tax formula to protect long-term residents from being priced out of their neighborhoods. Additionally, she would ask whether seasonal residents — who can afford multiple homes — should be taxed more than year-round residents, who must support themselves on local wages.

From her work as a nurse, Moesswilde said she knows that people are struggling to get by.

"I see it," she said, "but I just don't think big industry is the answer."

Harkness, the two-term incumbent, has a message for anyone running on opposition to the salmon farm: show me a better plan. The Ward 2 councilor said city officials have been unfairly accused of working on behalf of Nordic Aquafarms, at the expense of Belfast residents.

He has supported the salmon farm, he said, because the majority of people he talks to want it. And while public meetings have been dominated by opponents, he thinks the appearance is misleading.

"They have the impression, and they give other people the impression, that they're speaking for the community," he said. "But when I'm out about town, what I hear is, we want this" for the tax revenue and jobs. "I'm confident that a majority of people in this town support this. I wouldn't support it if I thought people were against it," he said.

Like his challenger, Harkness sees the shortage of housing as one the major problems facing the city, but thinks it will take more than good ideas — he, too, envisions housing on the Public Works lot and has been similarly struck by the number of vacant second homes in winter — to solve it.

During his tenure, the council lowered the minimum lot size for many properties and loosened limits on multifamily buildings, but "almost nothing happened," he said. "It barely moved the needle."

If the city wants homeowners to build an outbuilding on a split lot or a housing developer to come, he said, the mil rate has to come down. And there are two ways to do it.

"You either expand your tax base through development or you start slashing services," he said. "And when you have a $6.5 million city budget, we can't slash a million, two million in services. It's impossible."

New revenue from Nordic Aquafarms would lower the city's tax rate by $1.37 per $1,000 of property value, according to an estimate by the city.

The Ward 2 councilor said he hasn't turned a deaf ear to fish farm opponents, and he acknowledged that public comments have forced the council to look at things they initially hadn't considered. He has supported adding rules for significant groundwater extraction and discharge pipes that were proposed by the Planning Board after a review that came out of a lawsuit against the city by two residents.

The next council will face the tasks of marijuana regulation and the redevelopment of a former railroad property known as Belfast Yards, Harkness said. He added that he would like to see the city pursue more solar energy installations, which have offset much of the electricity use in municipal buildings. Beyond that, he was cautious about trying to predict the future.

"The biggest thing right now is something we hadn't dreamed of," he said. "So, who knows?"