The slow-moving county permitting process poses a significant roadblock to economic growth in Suffolk, delaying construction projects and hampering job creation, business leaders told County Executive-elect Steve Bellone Monday.

About 40 people -- representing local companies and trade groups -- attended a Melville forum hosted by Bellone and the Long Island Association.

Participants called for a focus on rental housing and high-tech jobs, but often returned to red tape involved in getting permits for commercial construction projects.

"Whether you get a 'yes' or a 'no,' the timeline is so long that it hurts businesses," said Kevin Gershowitz, whose Gershow Recycling in Medford employs 250 people. "As one person put it, just opening a stationery store is a major effort."

After the closed forum, Bellone told reporters he'd "create the conditions necessary for a growth and innovation economy." He offered few specifics, but said he intended to create a permanent county business advisory council.

"We can no longer afford to have government operate as if businesses are always going to want to be here, no matter how long it takes [for a permit] or how much it costs them to operate in the region," Bellone said.

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Long Island Association president Kevin Law, a former top aide to outgoing County Executive Steve Levy, said the business community believes Bellone will be a "bridge builder.

"Businesses here feel overregulated and they're uncertain about the future," Law said.

Businesses long have seen the county health department as taking "excessively" long to review permit applications for sanitary and water supply systems for construction projects, Law said.

But during a legislative debate last week over forming a committee to streamline permitting, chief public health engineer Walter Dawydiak called that a misconception.

In 2004, it took the department an average of 12 to 16 weeks to begin reviewing a permit application.

That now stands at four weeks, Dawydiak said, due to added staff, better coordination between departments and the availability of more forms on the county website.

"Suffolk County has been doing its part to streamline and expedite permitting," Dawydiak said.