By Mike Kruzman /

A Hartland Township restaurant’s request for permanent outdoor seating has led the Planning Commission to consider amending the township ordinance.

Joe and Yvonne Mackle, owners of Mackle’s Tables and Taps in the Hartland Town Center, were before the planning commission last week for an amended site plan approval. In May, the township simplified the process for restaurants wishing to use more of their outdoor space for seating to help them seat higher capacities, temporarily, while COVID restrictions are in place.

A business wishing to make that space permanent, such is the case with Mackle’s, still needs to go through the site plan process as the owners are doing. The patio space being requested is 180 square feet and would allow for four more tables that could seat 4 people each. Normally in Hartland Township outdoor seating is capped at 25% of indoor seating. Though this would put Mackle’s over that limit, Planning Director Troy Langer said that has a lot to do with parking. In Mackle’s case, they require 135 spaces, but have 203 on site, with other open space that isn’t counted because it isn’t striped, but could be.

Hartland Township’s ordinance allows for outdoor seating between April 1st and November 15th. The Mackle’s were requesting March to October seating. They were the second business at the meeting to request dates outside of what the ordinance allows, leading planning commissioners to wonder if they need to take a closer look at changing it. That part of the ordinance was created roughly 15 years ago and was based off of neighboring communities.

Chairman Larry Fox said he has to believe reasonable people will come to a reasonable conclusion, and if a business can set up an environment that entices people to eat or a have a beverage outside in January, then why should he care?

The Planning Commission approved the site plan amendment as requested while also setting themselves up to look at and consider amending the ordinance in the coming months.