Residential landowners should be required to get city permission or ‘permits’ only for property or structural changes that either potentially affect the safety or property of neighbors (such a placing pools upslope from neighboring properties), affects the number of housing units on the property (such as converting single family properties into duplexes), affect the utility meters on the property, changes that would intrude on spaces at the edges of the property (such as building or placing anything that would permanently remain higher than 20 feet (6 meters) above the ground surface of the property, or digging that would disturb soil deeper than 10 feet (3 meters) below the ground surface, or building structures within the buffer zones at the edges of the property).
For perhaps every other major property change, permits should not be required, although the residents would be required to notify the city within one year of the completion of any major changes. For example, all of the following changes would not need to be permitted, but homeowners/property owners would be required to report them to the appropriate government agency: any changes in wall placement in building (this includes both internal and external walls), major structural changes that don’t involve walls (such as concrete porch extensions, patio decking, gazeboes, permanent BBQ kitchens, trellis coverings, carports, low walls/railings (over 2 feet high), swimming pools/hot tubs (permanent), boundary line fence installation/replacement, skylight installation, changes in the number of toilets, showers/tubs, sinks on property, major changes in room usage (converted garages, guest room changed to home office, etc.). Resurfacing (not patch repairs) of sidewalks (because it is government property), and flagpole installation in the front yard (because they are so eye-catching and visible), and drilling water wells should also require permits.
To remind homeowners that they need to report these changes within one year, perhaps a one-page form could be included with annual tax documents mailed to all property owners. Regardless of how they are reminded, pictures of the change(s) should be mailed to the appropriate government agency along with a brief description of the change. Contractors who perform these changes could also remind homeowners, in writing, that they need to report the changes.
Every home owner/property owner should have access to an updated digital copy of the floor plans and designs available on this government agency’s database.