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Hot air balloons getting crowded out of county, operators say

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SAN DIEGO -- Operators of hot air balloon companies say development and environmental concerns are driving them out of business.

Companies are seeing their landing zones disappear.

"When I first started doing this 25 years ago there were about a dozen balloon companies in this area, now we're down to five," said Phil Brandt, a pilot for Magical Adventure Balloon Rides.

Brandt says companies continue negotiating with cities like San Diego hoping to retain the few landing zones that are still available in places such as Rancho Peñasquitos.

"If we can't have access to those places to recover our passengers and our balloon equipment, we might not be here for much longer," said Brandt.

Brandt is hopeful the city and hot air balloon companies will reach a compromise so hot air balloons can remain in the air over San Diego.

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