Budgets have not been as tight as the economy continues to loosen, and projects of varying degrees are pending or proposed in several Lake County communities.
Voters will have a say on local and state candidates in 2014, and some tax hike questions will be on the ballot as well.
The following is a list of some expected issues and items of note to watch for in 2014.
Paper or plastic?: The grocery store landscape in Lake County will change as the departure of suburban mainstay Dominick's leaves empty spaces in several areas. Parent company Safeway Inc. announced last fall it will stop operating 72 stores in the Chicago area.
But that doesn't mean there won't be new offerings.
Milwaukee-based Roundy's Inc., the parent company of Mariano's, plans to fill 11 of those spots, including stores in Gurnee, Buffalo Grove, Aurora and Park Ridge. In a separate action, Mariano's will open a new store at the northwest corner of Route 22 and Quentin Road in Lake Zurich.
And in Libertyville, the long, anxious wait for Trader Joe's will end with the eclectic retailer's expected opening in February or March. The California-based chain, known for its inexpensive quality wines, welcoming atmosphere and tasty store brands, is opening at 1600 S. Milwaukee Ave., across the street from the Mariano's store in Vernon Hills and just south of a Jewel-Osco.
The Libertyville store would be the second in Lake County, following one in Lake Zurich.
On the north end of Libertyville, Sunset Foods this past fall completed a $1 million makeover, which could serve as a template for future improvements at the other Sunset locations.
Shapes of things: An array of developments in several communities will be under way or completed in 2014.
With four new restaurants expected in 2014 and other plans, Libertyville will have a full plate. Pending residential projects include:
• A townhouse-style neighborhood at Bolander Park, 625 W. Winchester Road. The village sold the land to Swanson Development Group of Lake Forest for $2.05 million.
• M/I Homes of Naperville plans Liberty Station, a community of 80 townhouses near the downtown Metra train station.
• Cedar Street companies of Chicago will build about 30 apartments at Manchester Square, Milwaukee Avenue and Lake Street. The company acquired the building last November for $7.15 million.
Activity also will be humming in Vernon Hills.
The biggest project is work associated with an ongoing $50 million expansion and renovation at Westfield Hawthorn shopping center, which village officials have sought for years. Renovation of three mall entrances was completed in late 2013 and work continues on a new entrance between Sears and JCPenney.
A 1,200-seat, $6 million AMC theater built as part of that work will begin in January. A Dave & Buster's arcade/restaurant is expected to open in March and several restaurants are in the mix.
In the residential category, rapid build out of the Oaks of Vernon Hills, a luxury rental community on Route 45 on the site of the former Kelly's Camp and Liekum's Tap, is expected in 2014. It calls for 17 buildings with 302 units, a clubhouse and other amenities.
Nearby, Centrum properties is pursuing the redevelopment with office and retail space at the northwest corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Route 60.
And, Menards plans a 233,000-square-foot center north of Greggs Parkway, near Milwaukee Avenue. It will replace the store on Route 60 in Mundelein, which closed this past fall.
In Mundelein, a new, $10.4 million village hall is scheduled to be completed in June 2014. The 32,000-square-foot facility south of Hawley Street near the village's Metra commuter station is considered the stimulus for construction of a mixed-use, transit-oriented neighborhood.
The 65-unit Cardinal Square apartment complex in the downtown area is expected to begin occupancy in 2014. Also, the village will launch a redesigned website Jan. 1 and will continue a marketing campaign to attract businesses and customers.
Lake Zurich hopes somebody steps up with a proposal for a 2-acre downtown site overlooking the village's namesake lake as one element for a long-sought downtown revival. Developer John Breugelmans had a plan, but the village board in October rejected his offer to pay $10 for land that cost taxpayers $3.6 million to purchase.
Your vote will count: The general primary election on March 18 will feature few contested local races but some voters will be asked whether they want to fund community projects.
Seven of the county board's 21 seats, and the countywide posts of clerk, sheriff, treasurer, and regional schools superintendent will be up for election in 2014, as are state and federal offices.
There are candidates in only two county board primaries. In the Mundelein area's 10th District, Terri Voss, Charles "Chuck" Bartels and Cornelius "Connie" Shanahan compete in the Republican race.
In the Grayslake area's District 6, GOP hopefuls Timothy S. Powell and Jeff Werfel square off. No other county board primary races are contested and many don't have any candidates, but party leaders can make nominations after the primary.
In other races, Bob Bednar of Mundelein is running in the primary against state Rep. Ed Sullivan of Mundelein in the 51st District and Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider has a primary challenger in Arlene Hickory of Lake Bluff in the 10th District.
In pocketbook issues, Libertyville voters will be asked whether the village should be allowed to borrow up to $11.5 million, to be repaid with property taxes. The money would be used to convert the former Libertyville High School, known as the Brainerd building, into a community center.
If approved and the bonds are issued, the owner of a home valued at $300,000 would pay an estimated $141.98 more in property taxes each year. Three public open houses are scheduled in advance of Election Day.
Voters also will decide if Round Lake Area Unit District 116 should borrow $29 million for a high school expansion and a variety of building improvements. If voters approve, school officials said, current debt would be restructured and extended and taxes would not increase.
Also, the village of Long Grove will ask voters whether they want to authorize a new property tax for repair and replacement of certain roads. As presented, the new tax would not last more than 10 tax levy years. The proposed tax rate would amount to less than 1 percent of a property tax bill, village officials say. The owner of a home valued at $750,000 would pay an extra $166.
Let it flow: Nearly three years have passed since the Illinois Department of Natural Resources approved allocations of Lake Michigan water for several Lake County communities. How it will get to local taps is another matter.
The original consortium of towns seeking lake water, considered to be of better quality and quantity than deep or shallow wells, has fragmented and most communities still are trying to find the best way to deliver the goods.
Lake Villa, Lindenhurst and two county controlled systems, Grandwood Park and Fox Lake Hills, partnered to establish a special taxing district to generate up to $46 million to design and build the system. Design is set to begin in 2014, with Lake Michigan water flowing by late 2016 or early 2017.
Wauconda voters in 2012 approved a $50 million plan to connect to a Lake Michigan water system. The village was rejected by the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency, a Lake Michigan supplier, but hopes the agency reconsiders.
Antioch plans to hire a consultant to determine the potential source and cost of bringing Lake Michigan water to village taps. Lake Zurich, Fox Lake and Volo also are considering options.
On the docket: The trial of two gang members accused of killing a Zion teen at a Round Lake Beach liquor store should begin in spring. Jose Garcia of Mundelein and Jose Rebollar-Vergara of Round Lake Park remain in Lake County jail in lieu of $3 million bail each.
They are charged with shooting Gabriel Gonzalez, 19, in the parking lot of the One Stop Food and Liquor Store. Each faces 75 years in prison. Rebollar-Vergara is considering a plea deal with a decision expected in January.
Jeremy Betancourt of Antioch Township, who is charged with aggravated driving under the influence for his part in an illegal street race that left 16-year-old Cynthia Perez of Antioch dead, should learn his fate this summer. Betancourt, now 18, has been free from jail after posting the required 10 percent of his $100,000 bail.
The case against an Antioch man accused of killing his mother and wife last fall in a Main Street apartment could see a courtroom by the end of the year. Billy Varner is held without bond in the Lake County jail. Authorities charge he killed his wife with a machete, then used a plastic bag to suffocate his mother. Varner fled the state and was captured Nov. 2 in North Dakota after authorities say he tried to rob a Catholic church during Mass while armed with a shotgun.
Court proceedings will continue for Carly Rousso, who is accused of huffing computer dust cleaner minutes before striking and killing 5-year-old Jaclyn Sacramento-Santos in September 2012 in Highland Park. Rousso is charged with reckless homicide and aggravated driving under the influence of an intoxicating compound. She could spend 26 years in prison if found guilty of the most serious charges.
This and that:
• Roughly 2,000 Motorola employees will relocate from the long-standing headquarters on Route 45 in Libertyville for new offices at the Merchandise Mart throughout the first three months of the year. The company has been working to sell or lease the roughly 1 million-square-foot campus, and village officials are hopeful of something will happen in that regard in 2014.
• Goliath, touted as the what will be the fastest wooden roller coaster in the world, is expected to debut in 2014 at Six Flags Great America. It will be the biggest roller coaster added to Great America in its 37-year history. It also will be only one of three wooden coasters in the United States with a 180-degree roll.
• Hastings Lake Forest Preserve on Gelden Road, southwest of Grass Lake Road in Lake Villa, will open for its first full year after extensive improvements. Summer day camps and a nature celebration/open house are planned for spring.
• The mammoth Rollins Road Gateway project in Round Lake Beach is expected to be substantially completed in 2014, with landscaping and other details scheduled for early 2015. The most expensive and complicated road project undertaken by Lake County will result in a rebuilt Rollins Road routed beneath a railroad line to join in a new intersection at Route 83 among other improvements.
• Daily Herald staff writer Lee Filas contributed to this report